is the capital city of Nara Prefecture
. As of 1 April 2019, Nara has an estimated population of 359,666, making it the largest city in Nara Prefecture and sixth-largest in the Kansai region
. Nara is a core city
located in the northern part of Nara Prefecture bordering the Kyoto Prefecture
Nara was the capital of Japan during the Nara period
from 710 to 794 as the seat of the Emperor
before the capital was moved to Kyoto
. Nara is home to eight temples, shrines, and ruins, specifically Tōdai-ji
, Kasuga Shrine
, and the Heijō Palace
, together with Kasugayama Primeval Forest
, collectively form the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara
, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
By the Heian period
, a variety of different characters had been used to represent the name Nara: 乃楽, 乃羅, 平, 平城, 名良, 奈良, 奈羅, 常, 那良, 那楽, 那羅, 楢, 諾良, 諾楽, 寧, 寧楽 and 儺羅.
A number of theories for the origin of the name "Nara" have been proposed, and some of the better-known ones are listed here. The second theory in the list, from the notable folklorist Kunio Yanagita
(1875-1962), is most widely accepted at present.
* The ''Nihon Shoki
'' (''The Chronicles of Japan'', the second oldest book of classical Japanese history) suggests that "Nara" was derived from ''narasu
'' (to flatten, to level). According to this account, in September in the tenth year of Emperor Sujin
, "leading selected soldiers (the rebels) went forward, climbed Nara-yama (hills lying to the north of Heijō-kyō
) and put them in order. Now the imperial forces gathered and flattened trees and plants. Therefore the mountain is called Nara-yama." Though the narrative itself is regarded as a folk etymology and few researchers regard it as historical, this is the oldest surviving suggestion, and is linguistically similar to the following theory by Yanagita.
* "Flat land" theory (currently most widely accepted): In his 1936 study of placenames, the author Kunio Yanagita
states that "the topographical feature of an area of relatively gentle gradient on the side of a mountain, which is called ''taira'' in eastern Japan and ''hae'' in the south of Kyushu
, is called ''naru'' in the Chūgoku region
(central Japan). This word gives rise to the verb ''narasu'', adverb ''narashi'', and adjective ''narushi''." This is supported by entries in a dialect dictionary for nouns referring to flat areas: ''naru'' (found in Aida District
, Okayama Prefecture and Ketaka District
, Tottori Prefecture) and ''naro'' (found in Kōchi Prefecture
); and also by an adjective ''narui'' which is not standard Japanese, but is found all across central Japan, with meanings of "gentle", "gently sloping", or "easy". Yanagita further comments that the way in which the fact that so many of these placenames are written using the character 平 ("flat"), or other characters in which it is an element, demonstrates the validity of this theory. Citing a 1795 document, from the province of Inaba, the eastern part of modern Tottori
, as indicating the reading ''naruji'' for the word 平地 (standard reading ''heichi'', meaning "level/flat ground/land/country, a plain"), Yanagita suggests that ''naruji'' would have been used as a common noun there until the modern period. Of course, the fact that historically "Nara" was also written 平 or 平城 as above is further support for this theory.
* The idea that Nara is derived from 楢 ''nara'' (Japanese
for "oak, deciduous ''Quercus
'' spp.") is the next most common opinion. This idea was suggested by a linguist, Yoshida Togo. This noun for the plant can be seen as early as in Man'yōshū
(7-8th century) and Harima-no-kuni Fudoki
(715). The latter book states the place name ''Narahara'' in Harima
(around present-day Kasai
) derives from this ''nara'' tree, which might support Yoshida's theory. Note that the name of the nearby city of Kashihara
(literally "live oak plain") contains a semantically similar morpheme (Japanese 橿 ''kashi'' "live oak, evergreen ''Quercus
* Nara could be a loanword
from Old Korean
, related to modern Korean
: "country, nation, kingdom"). This idea was put forward by a linguist Matsuoka Shizuo. American linguist Samuel E. Martin
notes that the earliest attestation of this word in Korean sources—given in an eighth-century ''hyangga
'' text, in the phonogram
ic form 國惡
—should be read as ''NAL-
k''. This is similar to the form implied by the Old Japanese writings of Nara that transcribe the second syllable with 楽
(''raku''), and Martin notes that the city name has been "long suspected of being a borrowing from the Korean word". Kusuhara et al. argues that this hypothesis cannot account for the fact there are many places named Nara, Naru and Naro besides this Nara.
[楠原佑介ほか KUSUHARA Yūsuke et al. (1981), 『古代地名語源辞典』 ''(The Dictionary of Ancient Place Name Etymology)'', 東京堂出版, p.232]
* There is the idea that Nara is akin to Tungusic
''na''. In some Tungusic languages such as Orok
(and likely Goguryeo language
), ''na'' means earth, land or the like. Some have speculated about a connection between these Tungusic words and Old Japanese ''nawi'', an archaic and somewhat obscure word that appears in the verb phrases ''nawi furu'' and ''nawi yoru'' ('an earthquake
occurs, to have an earthquake').
The "flat land" theory is adopted by Nihon Kokugo Daijiten
(the largest dictionary of Japanese language), various dictionaries for place names,
history books on Nara, and the like today, and it is regarded as the most likely.
There are a number of kofun
in Nara, including Gosashi Kofun
, , , , , , and .
By decree of an edict on March 11, 708 AD, Empress Genmei
ordered the court to relocate to the new capital, Nara.
Once known as Heijō or Heijō-kyō
, the city was established as Japan's first permanent capital in 710 CE; it was the seat of government until 784 CE, albeit with five year interruption, lasting from 741-5 CE.
Heijō, as the ‘penultimate court’, however, was abandoned by the order of Emperor Kammu
in 784 CE in favor of the temporary site of Nagaoka
, and then Heian-kyō
(Kyoto) which retained the status of capital for 1,100 years, until the Meiji Emperor
made the final move to Edo
in 1869 CE.
This first relocation was due to the court's transformation from an imperial nobility to a force of metropolitan elites and new technique of dynastic shedding which had refashioned the relationship between court, nobility, and country.
Moreover, the ancient capital lent its name to Nara period.
As a reactionary expression to the political centralization of China, the city of Nara (Heijō) was modeled after the Tang
capital at Chang’an
Nara was laid out on a grid—which was based upon the Handen system
—whereby the city was divided by four great roads.
Likewise, according to Chinese cosmology, the ruler's place was fixed like the pole star. By dominating the capital, the ruler brought heaven to earth.
Thus, the south facing palace centered at the north, bisected the ancient city, instituting ‘Right Capital’ and ‘Left Capital’ zones.
As Nara came to be an epicenter of Buddhism in Japan
and a prominent pilgrimage site, the city plan incorporated various pre-Heijō and Heijō period temples, of which the Yakushiji and the Todaiji still stand.
File:CG Gosashi Kofun 1 7p.jpg|Gosashi tomb
A number of scholars have characterized the Nara period as a time of penal and administrative legal order.
The Taihō Code
called for the establishment of administrative sects underneath the central government, and modeled many of the codes from the Chinese Tang dynasty.
The code eventually disbanded, but its contents were largely preserved in the Yōrō Code
Occupants of the throne during the period gradually shifted their focus from military preparation to religious rites and institutions, in an attempt to strengthen their divine authority over the population.
Religion and Temples
* Nanto Rokushū
With the establishment of the new capital, Asuka-dera
, the temple of the Soga clan
, was relocated within Nara. The Emperor Shōmu
ordered the construction of Tōdai-ji
Temple (largest wooden building in the world) and the world's largest bronze Buddha statue.
The temples of Nara, known collectively as the Nanto Shichi Daiji
, remained spiritually significant even beyond the move of the political capital to Heian-kyō
in 794, thus giving Nara a synonym of Nanto ( ''"The southern Capital"'').
On December 2, 724 AD, in order to increase the visual “magnificence” of the city, an edict was ordered by the government for the noblemen and the wealthy to renovate the roofs, pillars, and walls of their homes, although at that time this was unfeasible.
Sightseeing in Nara city became popular in the Edo period, during which several visitor's maps of Nara were widely published. During the Meiji Period, the Kofukuji Temple lost some land and its monks were converted into Shinto priests, due to Buddhism being associated with the old shogunate.
File:Todaiji18s3200.jpg|Tōdai-ji is a Buddhist temple and the world's largest wooden building (8th century)
File:Wakakusa-yakushiji.jpg|Yakushi-ji was completed in 680
File:Kofukuji12st5s3200.jpg|Kōfuku-ji was built in 669
File:Hotokuji15s5s3200.jpg|Houtokuji ( Yagyu Clan Tomb)
File:Weeping_cherry_tree_in_Himuro_jinja_20150329.jpg|Himuro Shrine, established in 710
Even though Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 794, it was not designated a city until 1 February, 1898. Nara city has developed from a town of commerce in the Edo and Meiji periods to a modern tourist city, due to its large number of historical temples, landmarks and national monuments. Nara was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in December 1998. The architecture of some shops, ryokans and art galleries has been adapted from traditional merchant houses.
Nara holds traditional festivals every year, including the Neri-Kuyo Eshiki, a spring festival held in Todaiji temple for over 1,000 years; and the Kemari Festival, in which people wear costumes ranging across 700 years and play traditional games).
In 1909, Tatsuno Kingo
designed the Nara Hotel
, whose architecture combines modern elements with traditional Japanese style.
The city of Nara lies in the northern end of Nara Prefecture
, directly bordering Kyoto Prefecture to its north. The city is from North to South, from East to West. As a result of the latest merger, effective April 1, 2005, that combined the villages of Tsuge
with the city of Nara, the city now borders Mie Prefecture
directly to its east. The total area is .
[ For more details and latest figures, navigate to the equivalent Japanese page at the official homepage ]
Nara city, as well as several important settlements (such as Kashihara
), are located in the Nara Basin
. This makes it the most densely-populated region of Nara Prefecture.
The downtown of Nara is on the east side of the ancient Heijō Palace
site, occupying the northern part of what was called the , literally the outer capital area. Many of the public offices (e.g. the Municipal office, the Nara Prefectural government, the Nara Police headquarters, etc.) are located on , while Nara branch offices of major nationwide banks are on , with both avenues running east–west.
The highest point in the city is at the peak of Kaigahira-yama at an altitude of (Tsugehayama-cho district), and the lowest is in Ikeda-cho district, with an altitude of .
* Nara Basin
* Murō-Akame-Aoyama Quasi-National Park
* Yamato-Aogaki Quasi-National Park
* Kasugayama Primeval Forest
* Mount Wakakusa
The climate of Nara Prefecture is generally temperate, although there are notable differences between the north-western basin area and the rest of the prefecture which is more mountainous.
The basin area climate has an inland characteristic, as represented in the higher daily temperature variance, and the difference between summer and winter temperatures. Winter temperatures average approximately , and from in the summer with highest readings reaching close to . There has not been a single year since 1990 with more than 10 days of snowfall recorded by Nara Local Meteorological Observatory.
The climate in the rest of the prefecture is that of higher elevations especially in the south, with being the extreme minimum in winter. Heavy rainfall is often observed in summer. The annual accumulated rainfall totals as much as , which is among the heaviest in Japan and indeed in the world outside the equatorial zone.
Spring and fall temperatures are temperate and comfortable. The mountainous region of Yoshino has been long popular for viewing cherry blossoms in the spring. In autumn, the southern mountains are also a popular destination for viewing fall foliage.
, the city has an estimated population of 359,666 and a population density of 1,300 persons per km2
. There were 160,242 households residing in Nara. The highest concentration of both households and population, respectively about 46,000 and 125,000, is found along the newer bedtown districts, along the Kintetsu
line connecting to Osaka
There were about 3,000 registered foreigners in the city, of which Koreans and Chinese are the two largest groups with about 1,200 and 800 people respectively.
Landmarks and culture
, including Nigatsu-dō
* Himuro Shrine
* Kasuga Shrine
* Tamukeyama Hachiman Shrine
Former imperial palace
* Heijō Palace
* Nara National Museum
* Nara Municipal Buried Cultural Properties Research Centre
* Nara City Historical Materials Preservation House
* Nara Prefectural Museum of Art
* Irie Taikichi Memorial Museum of Photography Nara City
* Nakano Museum of Art
* Neiraku Museum
* Shōhaku Art Museum
* Yamato Bunkakan
* Isuien Garden
* Kyūseki Teien
* Manyo Botanical Garden, Nara
* Nara Park
* Nara Hotel
* Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
* Tipsy night, a rock band from Nara, contributed the theme song for the ''Naruto: Gekitō Ninja Taisen! 4'' (''僕の愛してるだれもいない'') games
* Nara Marathon
* Nara Centennial Hall
* Nara Kasugano International Forum Iraka
File:Tōdai-ji_Kon-dō.jpg|Tōdai-ji Temple Daibutsuden Hall, the world's largest wooden building
File:Kofukuji08s3200.jpg|Kōfuku-ji in the center of Nara
Deer in Nara
According to the legendary history of Kasuga Shrine, the god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō.
Since then, the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country.
Tame sika deer (also known as spotted deer or Japanese deer) roam through the town, especially in Nara Park. In 2015, there were more than 1,200 sika deer in Nara. Snack vendors sell ''sika senbei'' (deer crackers) to visitors so they can feed the deer. Some deer have learned to bow in order to receive ''senbei'' from people.
File:Nara_Park_Shika.jpg|Deer in Nara Park (2012).
File:Sika deer in Nara 09.jpg|Deer approaching tourists in Nara Park in summer.
File:20100716_Sika_Deer_Nara_2241.jpg|Deer in Nara Park
, there are 16 high schools and 6 universities located in the city of Nara.
Nara Women's University is one of only two national women's universities in Japan. Nara Institute of Science and Technology is a graduate research university specializing in biological, information, and materials sciences.
Primary and secondary education
Public elementary and junior high schools are operated by the city of Nara.
Public high schools are operated by the Nara Prefecture.
Private high schools in Nara include the Tōdaiji Gakuen, a private school founded by the temple in 1926.
File:Kintetsu_Series_30000_Nara.jpg|thumb|Kintetsu Limited Express passing through the Heijo Palace ruins. Mt.Wakakusa and Todaiji Temple are in the background.
The main central station of Nara is Kintetsu Nara Station with JR Nara station some 500m west and much closer to Shin-Omiya station.
*West Japan Railway Company
**Kansai Main Line (Yamatoji Line): Narayama Station - Nara Station
**Sakurai Line (Manyō-Mahoroba Line): Nara Station - Kyōbate Station - Obitoke Station
**Nara Line: Tomio Station - Gakuen-mae Station - Ayameike Station - Yamato-Saidaiji Station - Shin-Ōmiya Station - Kintetsu Nara Station
**Kyoto Line: Takanohara Station - Heijō Station - Yamato-Saidaiji Station
**Kashihara Line: Yamato-Saidaiji Station - Amagatsuji Station - Nishinokyō Station
** Keihanna Line: Gakken Nara-Tomigaoka Station
**Keinawa Expressway (Under construction)
**Hanshin Expressway Dainihanna Route
*Japan National Route 24
*Japan National Route 25
*Japan National Route 169
*Japan National Route 308
*Japan National Route 369
*Japan National Route 370
Twin towns – sister cities
Nara's sister cities are:
* Bodh Gaya, India
* Canberra, Australia
* Denver, United States
* Gyeongju, South Korea
* Nuremberg, Germany
* Orléans, France
* Toledo, Spain
* Versailles, France
* Xi'an, China
* Yangzhou, China
* Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan
* Kōriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan
* Obama, Fukui Prefecture, Japan
* Tagajō, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan
* Usa, Ōita Prefecture, Japan
In popular culture
Nara is featured in the anime and manga, Tonikawa: Fly Me to the Moon.
Nara City official website
The Official Nara Travel Guide
Category:Cities in Nara Prefecture
Category:Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Japan
Category:Former capitals of Japan