Main Pagoda, Kofukuji

Main Pagoda, Kofukuji

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Highlights and how to get to Kofuku-ji Temple.

Kofuku-ji Temple is an old historic temple with the history more than 1, 300 years which was built in 710 years.

The whole of Kofuku-ji Temple is designated as Michelin green guide ★★ and World Heritage Site: ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara’.

In addition, Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha Shrine are near this Temple.

↓Visit article of Todai-ji Temple↓

↓Visit article of Kasuga Taisha Shrine↓


1.About World Heritage ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara’

8 places of temples, shrines and Special Natural Monument of Nara are designated as ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara’.

↓Details of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara” is here.↓

2.About Kofuku-ji Temple

Kōfuku-ji ( 興福寺 Kōfuku-ji) is a Buddhist temple that was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples, in the city of Nara, Japan. The temple is the national headquarters of the Hossō school and is one of the eight Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

There are 26 national treasures and 44 important cultural property in Kofuku-ji Temple.

3.Highlight of Kofuku-ji Temple

There is a lot of highlight in Kofuku-ji Temple. I introduce to you the representative building.

●国宝館(National Treasure Museum)

A large number of national treasures are stored up in National Treasure Museum.
Entrance Fee: 600 yen(Adults), 500 yen(Junior and high school students), 250 yen(Primary school students)
Open: 9:00



Including Asura image which designated as a national treasure and Michelin green guide ★★★, a lot of precious cultural assets are stored up in this museum.


●東金堂(Tokon-do Hall)

東金堂(Tokon-do Hall) designated as a national treasure and Michelin green guide ★★.
This building is rebuilt in 1415, and four images of the national treasure are stored up.
Entrance Fee: 300 yen(Adults), 200 yen(Junior and high school students), 100 yen(Primary school students)
Open: 9:00

●五重塔(Five-storey Pagoda)

Five-storey Pagoda designated as a national treasure and Michelin green guide ★.
This building is rebuilt in 1426, and is the second tallest wooden tower in Japan.(The height is about 50 meters.)
(The tallest wooden tower in Japan is Five-storey Pagoda in To-ji Temple(Kyoto).)

東金堂(Tokon-do Hall) and Five-storey Pagoda.
This is the valuable place that can photograph two national treasures in one frame. d(*゚ー゚*)

●南円堂(Nanen-do Hall)

南円堂(Nanen-do Hall) designated as a Important cultural properties.
This building is rebuilt in 1789.

The wisteria trellis of “南円堂(Nanen-do Hall)” is called “南円堂藤(The wisteria of 南円堂(Nanen-do Hall))”, and a beautiful wisteria flower blooms in May. (○´艸`)

●北円堂(Hokuen-do Hall)

北円堂(Hokuen-do Hall) designated as a national treasure.
This building was rebuilt in 1208, and this is the oldest building in Kofuku-ji Temple.


●三重塔(Three-storey Pagoda)

三重塔(Three-storey Pagoda) is a building which was rebuilt in 1180.
This building was designated as a national treasure.

4.Goshuin(shrine seal or stamp) of Kofuku-ji Temple

There are five kinds of shrine seals in Kofuku-ji Temple now. Shrine seal of “②令興福力” is a representative seal of Kofuku-ji Temple.
Let’s get a shrine seal of “②令興福力” if you don’t understand which is good.

This is the shrine seal of “②令興福力” which is the representative seal of this temple. This is the words that came from Buddha that is the principal idol of 中金堂(Chukon-do Hall).

This is the shrine seal of “①中金堂” which is the main hall of this temple.

5. How to get to Kofuku-ji Temple

Nearest station of Kofuku-ji Temple is the Kintetsu Nara Line Kintetsu-Nara Station.

■Kintetsu-Nara Station → Kofuku-ji Temple

About 10 minutes walk.

Please try to go to this place.

<Let’s search the sightseeing information of Kansai in Japan on ‘Japan’s Travel Manual‘!!>
<This site introduces the easiest way to get Japanese (Kansai) sightseeing spots to you.>

In search of gojunoto, the five element Japanese pagoda

The Japanese five-storied pagoda (gojunoto) is a remarkable piece of Buddhist architecture that represents the five elements of earth, water, fire, wind and space/void. It has played a significant role in Japanese culture for over 1400 years and continues to do so. Built to enshrine Buddhist relics and as a focus of devotion, the towering form of the gojunoto captures and captivates the imagination. Their layered wooden grooves ascending in stages towards the sky evoke a spiritual connection. The metal spire at the top completes the structure and symbolism. The sophisticated wooden architecture of the pagoda provides resistance to the elemental forces of earthquakes and strong winds, a design that has informed modern multi-story architecture. With it’s origin in India, and influences from Chinese architecture, the Japanese pagoda has developed into a distinctive form. My search for gojunoto and the way they are represented has opened up a new and exciting dimension of Elemental Japan.

The gojunoto at Toji, a famous Shingon Temple in Kyoto, is the tallest five-storied pagoda in Japan (54.8 m). It was most recently rebuilt in 1644. Special night illuminations are held to highlight the intricate structure of the pagoda and the changing nature of the seasons. This eye-catching poster, with the pagoda reflected in a pond, advertised the 2018 Autumn illumination.

The five Buddhist elements of earth, fire, water, wind and space/void are represented by each tier of the gojunoto, starting with earth at the bottom . Unlike the related stone gorinto, the elements are not inscribed on each level. The finial/shaft at the top of wooden pagodas, known as a Sorin, is usually made of bronze and can be 10 m tall. It has deep religious symbolism and includes representations of fire, water and wind. The gojunoto at Horyuji, completed around 711 AD , is one of the oldest wooden buildings in the world. This is remarkable given the susceptibility of Japanese pagodas to fire. One saving grace is their extreme resistance to earthquakes, another elemental connection.

The gojunoto is one of the principle buildings in the Temple complex at Horyuji, an independent Temple in Ikaruga near Nara. The bottom level of the pagoda contains ancient clay statues of Buddha and his life, with the tableaus facing north, south, east and west. There were long queues of school children waiting to see these treasures during our visit to Horyuji in October 2018. Pagodas built in later eras in Japan became secondary buildings, yet are still often the most eye-catching structures on the temple grounds.

A strong connection exists between the oldest pagoda in Japan and the newest, the Tokyo Skytree. The architects of this imposing modern structure drew inspiration from the design of Horyuji. Both have a large central pillar, one of wood and the other of concrete, that is used as a counterweight to the outer shell of the building. In the event of an earthquake or extremely strong winds the sway of the outer structure is counterbalanced by the movement of the core pillar. The designers of the Skytree go further than emulating the internal structure of the original wooden pagodas. When the feng shui (J. fu sui) impact of the Skytree was criticised, they argued that the tower was a giant five element pagoda that would protect the prosperity of Tokyo for years to come.

This stunning photo of the Sensoji gojunoto at Asakusa with the Skytree in the background was taken by Ishii Noboru. It is the first time I have seen the two pagodas juxtaposed like this. Noburo-san has a YouTube Channel called ‘Spiritual Japan‘ where he posts videos of gardens, park and temples in Tokyo. He was happy for me to share this remarkable photo, for which I am very grateful. It perfectly captures the evolution of design from ancient to modern times in Japan, bolstered by continuity in the philosophy (in this case the five elements) underpinning it.

22 five element pagodas built in the pre-modern era (prior to 1868) remain. The three most beautiful examples are considered to be located at Horyuji, Daigoji on the outskirts of Kyoto (built in 952 AD) and at Rurikoji at Yamaguchi in south-eastern Honshu (built in 1442). Shown below, the elegant design and shingle roofs of the Rurikoji pagoda and its beautiful setting makes it my No. 1.

My trip to Yamaguchi to see the gojunoto at Rurokuji was blessed with beautiful blue skies, as well as a Shiga dog that inadvertently posed for this photo.

Rurikoji is a Soto Zen temple. Don’t be surprised if you read elsewhere that Zen temples don’t have pagodas, that these structures don’t fit the minimalist philosophy of Zen. That’s what I believed until l learnt about a few exceptions to the rule. Not only does this and other Zen temples have pagodas, Rurukoji has a Museum dedicated solely to gojunoto. A Zen temple with a five-tiered pagoda Museum! Both the Temple and Museum are well worth visiting.

The first section of the gojunoto Museum at Rurikoji has photographs of 44 five-tiered pagodas in the order of their most recent construction. There is also a comprehensive video that shows how the pagoda at Rurikoji was built and images of the Buddhist statues found on the first level.

In the second room of the Museum there are scale models of 56 five-tiered pagodas from across Japan. How good is that! The care and attention to detail in making them is impressive. I was amazed. As no book is available on the Museum, I took numerous photographs and notes at this largely unknown destination. It deserves greater attention.

There is one other Zen Temple I know of that has a gojunoto and it’s a long way from Yamaguchi – around 1,155 km. In 1896 a five-tiered pagoda was built in Tsuruoka, also a Soto Zen temple, to commemorate all of the fishes in the seas. Built in wood with metal rooves, this gojunoto is found in Yamagata Prefecture.

This image at Zenpoji illustrates the intricate wooden architecture and interwoven wooden pieces of the gojunoto, joined without using nails. The Buddhist statues in the bottom level of the pagoda can be seen through the open doors. This space is the only accessible part of pagodas and is usually off limits to lay people. The pagodas are designed to be worshipped by circumambulating the buildings and the relics kept inside or underneath the structure. Given their height and imposing presence, the gojunoto can also be seen and revered from a distance.

Inside the main temple grounds at Zenpoji a stone gojunoto stands watch. This is an unusual and beautiful representation of the five element pagoda.

Across the valley from Zenpoji is a more famous gojunoto, one that Joanna Lumley introduced to the world in her 2016 series on Japan. The five-storied pagoda, found along the stone path that embraces Mt Haguro, is set within a glorious old growth forest. The energy is very powerful. The mountain (part of the Dewa Sanzen group), and pagoda, have a long association with the Shugendo faith. The Buddhist elements are a fundamental component of the religion and the gojunoto is an important place of worship on Shugendo pilgrimages.

Our visit to the pagoda at Hagurosan was timely as it was the first opportunity in 150 years to see inside the first and second levels of the gojunoto. Viewing the large central pillar (shinbashira) on the second floor was a great thrill. I have read two theories about the purpose of the shinbashira, one that it protects the pagoda from earthquakes and two that it is designed to support the weight of the Sorin. It is possible it does both.

The beautiful and striking form of the gojunoto is reproduced throughout Japan in diverse ways. One that I was not expecting to see was Miss Kitty – particularly representing a site of active Shugendo practice that emphasises self-awareness and connectedness with nature through ascetic practices. Like joining a Karaoke session on my first Shugendo pilgrimage to Mt Ontake, it’s important to keep an open mind about the path to enlightenment.

Here is Miss Kitty, standing in front of a centuries old gojunoto on Hagurosan, dressed in the attire of a Shugendo practitioner. Setting aside the appropriateness or otherwise of the image, she is pretty cute.

Traveling further north on the island of Honshu another gojunoto with a long history can be found. Saishoin is a Shingon temple built in 1532 in Hirosaki (near Aomori) in the hope of good harvests and national peace and security. The gojunoto, built in 1667 and known as the most beautiful pagoda of Tohoku, retains its original vivid colours.

Like the gojunoto at the Zen temple in Tsuruoka, the Saishoin pagoda has metal on the rooves of the five tiers. This modern addition would save maintenance compared to the tiles or shingles found on other gojunoto. The colours enliven the pagoda and make an interesting contrast to those where the natural wood is now dominant.

The elegant gojunoto on Miyajima, which overlooks Itsukushima Shrine, is also brightly coloured. Most recently rebuilt in 1407, the pagoda was originally part of a Shrine-Temple complex. Since the Meiji Restoration, when Shinto and Buddhist institutions and teachings were forcibly ‘disassociated’, the pagoda has become part of Toyokuni Shrine. The Buddhist statues originally located in the pagoda were moved to Daiganji, a Shingon Temple on the island. Even so, the symbolism and spiritual presence of the pagoda remains.

In total there are nearly 70 full-sized gojunoto in Japan, most of them built since 1868. When you add images and photos of five-tiered pagodas into the count, their number would have to increase to the millions. A few examples follow.

Not surprisingly the beautiful shape of the gojunoto lends itself to some striking and varied representations. This is a sample of the collection amassed so far in my search for gojunoto. Once you start looking you see the pagoda, and the Buddhist elements, everywhere!

In particular, the five element pagoda has become a symbol of Kyoto, along with the Daimonji (great character) fire symbol. The city has four gojunoto, three found at the Shingon Temples of Toji, Ninnaji and Daigoji, and the Hokaiji pagoda in Higashiyama (more commonly known as the Yasaka pagoda). The gojunoto at Daigoji, built in 952, is the oldest wooden structure in Kyoto. It was one of the few buildings to survive the Onin War in the 15th century. Of the multiple options, I’ve read that the five element pagoda at Toji (East Temple) is most commonly used to represent Kyoto. Originally built in 826, it stood at the gateway to Heiankyo with a partner at Saiji (West Temple). With the Rashomon gate in-between, the entrance to the ancient capital would have been an imposing sight.

The wrapping on these traditional pickles shows a gojunoto and the Daimonji symbol together, both symbols of Kyoto. The tram passing past them harks back to an extensive transport network in the city that was closed in 1978, despite strong opposition. It’s a story repeated around the world. Gojunoto were also ‘closed down’, albeit over 100 years earlier, as part of the forced separation of Shinto and Buddhism. As an example, and also against strong opposition, the 600 year old gojunoto at Suwa Shrine in Suwa was demolished in 1868.

The gojunoto and Daimonji symbols of Kyoto are found together on another food item, this time extremely spicy rice snacks bought to eat on the train to Tokyo. Notice the jar of spices in place of the Sorin. Is nothing sacred?!

Given the culture of omiyage in Japan, where a local edible gift is taken home as souvenirs for family and friends, its not surprising to see other food items with pagoda imagery. From left to right these omiyage are from Yamaguchi, Kyoto and Nara.

While the gojunoto at Ninnaji in the northern hills of Kyoto is not as well known, photographed or represented as the one at Toji, it is an imposing building, especially in the rain.

The gojunoto is also a common image in Nara, including on arrival at the train stations. The five element pagoda at Kofukiji features on the limited edition bottle of Coca Cola that uses representative local symbols. Presumably they couldn’t have a pagoda on another bottle so the Kyoto version has the Daimonji symbol, a geisha and a famous bridge. I was interested to read that at one stage it was suggested that the pagoda at Kofukuji be dismantled and sold. Imagine that.

After visiting the Temple and Museum in Yamaguchi I discovered another person with a fascination with gojunoto. Isao Mimura has published a book, shown below, which beautifully illustrates every five element pagoda in Japan. Each image is accompanied by information on the pagoda and the stories related to visiting and drawing the structures. The book also includes detailed information on the design of the pagodas and a wealth of other material. Most importantly from my perspective, Mimura-san shows the kanji for the five elements in the introductory pages of the book. One of the diagrams at the back of his book suggests that the void/space element equates to the base of the Sorin rather than the top tier of the pagoda. I will further explore what part of the gojunoto the fifth element corresponds to. I would also like to confirm, one way or the other, whether the association between the five elements and the gojunoto arose when Kukai introduced Shingon Buddhism to Japan over 1200 years ago. That is my theory.

The book on the five-tiered pagoda by Isao Mimura is a labour of love. He is one person aware of the elemental nature of the structures. Individual images by the artist can be bought on-line. At least two other books devoted to the gojunoto are available in Japanese. One I am particularly interested in, with the help of a translator, is Nihon buttō shūsei 日本仏塔集成 (Compilation of Japanese Buddhist Stupas) by Prof. Hamashima Masaji 濱島正士

The relationship between the gojunoto and the elements is one that several Japanese people I have spoken to are no longer aware of. Visitors to Japan are also unlikely to be aware of the link. One aim of this blog is to bring this connection to the fore.

Pagodas with different numbers of tiers are also found in Japan. Of the pagodas built before the Meiji Restoration, 100 or more three-storied pagodas, a small thirteen-storied version and 80 or so special two-storied Tahoto pagodas remain. It is the gojunoto however that has captured the imagination of the world. This is exemplified by the recently constructed five-tiered pagoda that overlooks Mt Fuji. Built as a peace memorial on 1963 in the Asakura Sengen Shrine the Chureito gojunoto has become a magnet for visitors wanting what in their minds is an iconic image of Japan. The site is especially busy during Spring and Autumn when cherry blossoms and vibrant autumn leaves frame the scene.

Many images similar to this can be found online, with sakura in the foreground and Fujisan in the background. The gojunoto, like most built since WW2, is made of concrete. Regardless of the building material, the five tiers continue to represent the five Buddhist elements of earth, water, fire, wind and void/space. Source:

While I am yet to visit this five-tiered pagoda, I have images of many others I have seen. They are very photogenic. An unexpected discovery during my search for gojunoto was of miniature pagodas, built faithfully to the original design. The oldest existing model was constructed in the 8th century and is a National Treasure. It is 5.5 metres tall and located in Ganjoji, a Shingon Temple in Nara. More informal models of the gojunoto, in clay, stone and wood, are relatively common in secular settings. Each time I see them I am reminded of the importance of the elements in Japanese culture.

Main Pagoda, Kofukuji - History

What people are saying:

This place is one of the seven great ancient temples in southern Japan. One of the main attractions is the ancient tower inside. It seems to be well preserved, but the history is also very good.

This place is one of the seven great ancient temples in southern Japan. One of the main attractions is the ancient tower inside. It seems to be well preserved, but the history is also very good.

This place is located in the commercial district in a thousand years of ancient temple, so don't bother to look for it, when shopping inside, naturally can see this place, tourists are more concentrated, I think it is ok.

The very important temple, also a large temple, the first temple in Nara Park, the five-storied tower is very striking, here the terrain is undulating, there are many people wearing kimono, very local cultural characteristics.

A very famous temple, the outer open, the theme building is very large, the annex building is also good, there are many tourists here, from here you can see the scattered deer herd, in recent years in repair.

Xingfu Temple is the main mountain of the Hosho sect, one of the six sects of Nandu, and one of the seven temples of Nandu. The architecture is magnificent and grand, revealing a certain elegance of the famous gates. Going to Nara must see.

Kofukuji used to be the Fujiwara family temple, the most powerful family during the Nara and Heian Periods. This temple was built the same time that Nara become the country's capital in 710. At the time, it was made up of over 150 buildings, but now only a few remain. The most important is the five story pagoda. This is the second largest in Japan and a symbol of Nara that shouldn't be missed.

Kofukuji Temple is made up of The Eastern Golden Hall and Five Story Pagoda. These are the closest main sights to central Nara, located at the western end of Nara Park. The five story pagoda, at 50 meters, is impressive and is Japan's second tallest. It is a landmark and the symbol of ancient Nara. It was first built in 730, and was most recently rebuilt in 1426. The Central Golden Hall was still under construction in June 2016. You can view the temples for free but the Eastern Golden Hall has a 300 yen entry fee.

One of many temples on my life list.

This small temple complex does have a variety of structures available for viewing. It is fairly easy to do a short walking tour while wandering around the larger Nara area.

If you want to say that there are any attractions in Nara must not be missed, the location is super good Nara Kofuku Temple, basically every visitor to Nara must return to a attraction. The earliest time came in the Zhongjintang in repair, then repaired for a full decade, came a few times in the middle of the repair, this time finally repaired, it seems really powerful and domineering, very beautiful and solemn, compared to the edge of the five-heavy tower lost a lot of color. But to say the most beautiful scenery, must push the night view, the day because the tourists can not feel the quiet temple at all, to the night is quiet no tourists, the experience of the time is too wonderful, it is like the snowed Forbidden City.

Main Pagoda, Kofukuji - History

This small temple complex does have a variety of structures available for viewing. It is fairly easy to do a short walking tour while wandering around the larger Nara area.

If you want to say that there are any attractions in Nara must not be missed, the location is super good Nara Kofuku Temple, basically every visitor to Nara must return to a attraction. The earliest time came in the Zhongjintang in repair, then repaired for a full decade, came a few times in the middle of the repair, this time finally repaired, it seems really powerful and domineering, very beautiful and solemn, compared to the edge of the five-heavy tower lost a lot of color. But to say the most beautiful scenery, must push the night view, the day because the tourists can not feel the quiet temple at all, to the night is quiet no tourists, the experience of the time is too wonderful, it is like the snowed Forbidden City.

The moonlit Kofuku-ji Pagoda

Posted by Viki Pandit on July 18, 2016

I walked down to Kofukuji today in the evening to catch the huge Pagoda with the moon rising behind it. The five-story structure(Gojunoto) is the second tallest Pagoda in all of Japan. Built in 725 AD by the Empress Komyoh and last rebuilt in 1426, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage listed site.

The walk to Nara walk is generally entertaining.

Street Performance on Sanjo Dori leading to Nara Park

Kofukuji from Sarusawa Pond

Kofuku-ji Pagoda from the front

Kōfuku-ji Five Storied Pagoda

Petting the deer near Kofuku-ji

Petting the deer at Nara Park

Deer resting on the Kofukuji Temple Grounds

Dusk begins to take over Kofuku-ji Pagoda

The kofuku-ji Pagoda in the evening

Kofukuji Pagoda against the moonlit sky

A close-up shot of Kofuku-ji Pagoda

Read all about my walk to Kofukuji. If you are visiting Nara, you can also check out my day at the Nara Deer Park.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is based on the time I visited the premises. Note that there might be changes in the prices of merchandise and admission fees that might have occurred after this article was published. At times the facility might also be closed for repairs or for variety of other reasons. Kindly contact the facility or facilities mentioned in this article directly before visiting.

Usage of this site indicates acceptance of my Terms and Conditions.

Credits: The historical information presented herein is gathered mostly from Wikipedia and local guides. Although Wikipedia has been known to be factually correct, the narrative their editors set is open to debate.

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Kofukuji Temple

Kofukuji Temple is located in the central Nara City of the Nara Prefecture in Kansai Region. Kofukuji Temple, also known as Nan-En-Do, is the temple #9 in the Saikoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage of Western Japan. Kofukuji Temple was known as one of the "Four Great Temples" of Nara period and one of the "Seven Great Temples" of the Heian Period.

Kofukuji Temple is located at the entrance of the Nara Park area if you are coming from the JR Nara Station. It is less than fifteen minute walk from the JR Nara Station, located across from a pond located at the entrance of the Nara Park.

The origins of Kofukuji Temple date to the eight year of the Emperor Tenji (669 AD). The wife of statesman Fujiwara-no-Kamatari (one of the founders of the Fujiwara family, which played an important role in the history of Japan from eighty to the twelfth century AD), by the name of Kagami-no-Okimi established a temple at the family estate in Yamashina Suehara (modern day Kyoto prefecture) to pray for the recovery of Kamatari's illness. This early Fujiwara tutelary temple was first known as Yamashina-dera. In the temple Kagami-no-Okimi enshrined images of Shaka Triad (Sakayamuni, the historical Buddha, along with two attendants), which had originally been commissioned at the behest of Katamari upon his defeat of the Soga clan in 645. A few years later the temple was moved to Umayasaka in Nara Prefecture, and named Umayasaka-dera.

With the establishment of the capital at Nara in 710, Yamashina-dera was the first temple to be relocated, and was moved to it's present location in a central block of the Nara city. The temple, renamed Kofukuji, grew rapidly in size and wealth under the patronage of successive emperors and empresses, and members of the powerful Fujiwara clan. But towards the middle of the twelfth century the political power of the Fujiwara began to decline, the Kofukuji Temple lacking the protection of it's former patrons, suffered the effects of the serious political and social upheaval which followed. Towards the end of the Fujiwara period and in the early part of the Kamakura Shoguns period, the Nara temples, including Kofukuji Temple supported by armed forces of their resident priests and followers exerted considerable political influence but they never again attained the cultural and spiritual leadership which they enjoyed during the Nara and early Heian periods.

Kofukuji is one of the head temples of the Hosso Sect of Japanese Buddhism. The Hosso sect is also known as the Yuishiki sect. Hosso sect teachings are similar to the Kegon sect and they both predate the popular sects of present day Japanese Buddhism. The Hosso sect was first brought to China from India by the Tang Dynasty monk by the name of Hsuan Tsang.

Kannon Bosatsu Statue

Hsuan Tsang, who wrote the popular Journal entitled "Travels to the West", transmitted the Hosso teachings, as found in the Yuishiki-ron ("Treatise on Mind Only"), to his disciple Jion Daishi, who is considered as the founder of the Hosso School in China. These doctrins were later brought over to Japan and introduced at the Kofukuji Temple by the Monk Genboh (746 AD) who studied in China from 716-735.

One of the best structures in the temple predincts is the five storied Pagoda, which can be seen from around the Nara Park was constructed by Empress Komyoh in 730. The current construction is a restoration completed in 1426 and is the second tallest pagoda in Japan measuring about 150 feet. Inside the structure on the first level, enshrined around the central pillar are various Buddhist Deities (Yakushi Triad, Shaka Triad, Amida Triad and Miroku Triad).

Here is a video of this beautiful Kofukuji Temple:

Kofuku-ji Temple

Kofuku-ji Temple is among the most famous temples in Nara and is one of the city’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Its spectacular five-storied pagoda is as much a symbol of the city as the adorable deer wandering around in front of it.

Eleven buildings make up the temple grounds today.

The temple was founded in 710 – when Nara became Japan’s capital – by the powerful Fujiwara family. At the height of their influence, Kofuku-ji was a sprawling complex of over 150 buildings, although unfortunately fires and the anti-Buddhist policies of the Meiji period have since greatly reduced this number to the 11 that remain today.

Unlike most other temples, there is no imposing main gate marking the entrance – you might even find yourself on the temple grounds without realizing it! Don’t be fooled, however, as there’s plenty here worth visiting.

Kofukuji’s To-kondo (East Golden Hall).

The National Treasure Museum houses an impressive and world-famous collection of Buddhist art and artifacts, while the five-storied pagoda is the second-tallest in the country at just over 50 meters. The Eastern Golden Hall contains more Buddhist statues, and the temple complex also features a three-storied pagoda plus a number of other halls and an ancient bathhouse.

Kofuku-ji’s convenient location in the heart of Nara means it can easily be included on a day trip to the city, alongside the nearby Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Taisha and Nara Park.

Please note: The Central Golden Hall is undergoing reconstruction and scheduled to be closed until October 2018.

Things To Know

Hours and fees

The temple grounds are free to enter and open 24 hours a day. The National Treasure Museum requires a ¥600 entrance fee. The Eastern Golden Hall is ¥300. Both tourists attractions are usually open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. A combined ticket for the two is also available for ¥800.

How To Get There


Japan, 〒630-8213 Nara-ken, Nara-shi, Noboriōjichō, 東金堂

By bus

Access by taking the Nara City Loop Line Bus number 2 from JR Nara station or Kintetsu Nara station. You can also ride any of the buses heading to Kasuga Taisha and get off at Kencho-mae stop. It takes approximately 5 minutes and the bus ticket costs ¥210.

By foot

Kofuku-ji is accessible on foot from both JR Nara and Kintetsu Nara stations. From Kintetsu Nara, head east for a few minutes and then turn right into the temple complex. From JR Nara walk east along Sanjo Dori for about 15 minutes and then turn left into the temple complex when you reach Sarusawa Pond.

Explore Nearby

Mount Yoshino

Discover the three faces of this mystical mountainous area and popular tourist spot for cherry blossoms.

Kofukuji's Temple Grounds

Because of the many different building the temple holds, there is no unified age to these buildings. Most of them were destroyed at some point in history. The pagoda for example was rebuilt in 1426. Most recently finished is the temple’s main hall called Central Golden Hall. Construction works finished in October 2018 which means the hall is open to the public again.

Additional buildings include the Eastern Golden Hall, the National Treasure Museum and two Octagonal halls. Opening hours and entrance fee for the respective buildings will be mentioned down below.

The museum is a display of Kofukuji temple’s huge art collection and Buddhist statues with hundreds of years of age. The octagonal halls are located south and north of the main hall respectively and also hold immense historical value. Neither of them is open to the public unfortunately.

Kofukuji temple is a must-see for anyone interest in Japanese history, Buddhism or Buddhist art because this temple has got it all.

ITINERARIES Best of Japan's World Heritage Explore monuments of Japan's rich cultural history

Take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Kyoto Station. Change to the JR Nara Line and take it to Nara Station.

From Osaka: 1 hour

Take the JR Osaka Loop Line Express from Osaka Station to Nara Station.

The historical capital of Nara is home to some of Japan's earliest extant examples of temple architecture, built during the first years after monks from the Asian continent introduced Buddhism to the country. This itinerary focuses on the World Heritage sites concentrated in the green expanse of Nara Park , a short distance from Kintetsu Nara Station and slightly further away from Nara Station.

7 minutes

With a history of over 1,000 years, the highlight among Kofukuji Temple's many treasures is undoubtedly the elegant statue of Ashura. Made with a dry lacquer technique, the statue has a cult following in Japan, and many thousands of visitors travel from across the country to see it each year. Ashura is one of Buddha's eight protectors, with six arms. Look carefully at its three delicate faces, and you notice each with different expressions.

20 minutes

The approach to Kasuga Taisha is fitting for a shrine of its age and importance: an extraordinary 3,000 stone lanterns line the route for worshippers through primeval forest, among which also roam the hundreds of sacred—and protected—deer of Nara. This stately shrine is connected to the Fujiwara family, which enjoyed huge influence during the 9th to 12th centuries through intermarriage with imperial family members.

21 minutes

Bear in mind when you stand in awe before the immense structure of Todaiji Temple's main hall that it is, in fact, only a third of its original size. The figure of the Dainichi Nyorai, or Buddha of the Cosmos, is 16 meters high, and its original construction in the 8th century exhausted the country’s supply of bronze, and thousands of monks from around the Asian continent attended the unveiling.

13 minutes

Come one late-October morning to this grand museum, and you will notice scores of people waiting in line before opening time. While Nara National Museum has a splendid permanent collection, its annual exhibition of treasures from the repository of Todaiji Temple , called Shoso-in, is a highly anticipated event. The objects on display date to as early as the eighth century and are a testament to just how connected Japan actually was with the rest of the Asian continent. Reserve your tickets in advance.

13 minutes

Naramachi , the old merchant quarter of Nara, makes a pleasant detour away from the crowds of Nara Park, with charming shops, restaurants, and a sake brewery. But also located here is the often overlooked Gangoji Temple , another World Heritage site. Historians believe the 7th-century Asukadera Temple, Japan’s oldest Buddhist temple, was moved here at the same time as the relocation of the capital to Nara . While damaged by fire, parts of the building are immaculately preserved today.

1 hour 3 minutes

Walk 15 minutes to Kintetsu Nara Station and take the Kintetsu Kyoto Line to Kyoto Station.

Kyoto is considered the cultural capital of Japan for good reason: the city is filled with both UNESCO World Heritage Sites and National Important Cultural Properties, among them temples, shrines and the villas of shoguns. The seat of the emperor for over 1,000 years, the city has a great deal of pride in these monuments.

15 minutes

Built after the defining Battle of Sekigahara, which ultimately united Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate, Nijo Castle represented the new regime's presence in Kyoto—the home of the imperial house—despite relocating the capital to Edo (now Tokyo). It is less castle-like than palatial, giving a hint as to its real symbolic purpose. The interiors, lavishly painted in gold, with large, imposing compositions, and the surrounding stately gardens make the castle a must-see.

18 minutes

Although it was reconstructed in the 1950s, the so-called Golden Pavilion is nonetheless one of Kyoto's most iconic buildings and occupies an important place in Japanese history. As the villa of the third Ashikaga shogun, it was a clear assertion of dominance over the imperial court. The pavilion itself sits on the edge of a pond with the northern mountains serving as an impressive backdrop, and is covered with some 27 tons of layered gold leaf.

50 minutes

Walk to the far eastern end of Shijo Street, past the shops and the teahouse-lined street of Hanamikoji, and you will eventually spot the orange gate of Yasaka-jinja , one of Kyoto's oldest shrines. This area is completely transformed in mid-July by the annual Gion Festival , during which Yasaka-jinja Shrine serves as the centerpiece, from where white robe-clad men carry the golden portable shrines on a journey around the city. The shrine, and Maruyama Park behind it is accessible at night, and lanterns illuminate the grounds.

6 minutes

Walk through Yasaka-jinja to Maruyama Park, and it will be hard to miss the imposing Sanmon wooden gate of Chionin Temple—the largest of its kind in Japan. Chionin Temple is the head temple of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism and believed to hold the ashes of its founder. While the main hall is undergoing renovations until 2019, the smaller temple buildings, connected by stone staircases, are open, and there are great views over Kyoto from the top.

21 minutes

The extraordinary architecture of Kiyomizudera Temple’s main hall is what makes this a classic World Heritage in Kyoto. An intricate network of pillars supports its large platform, perched on the mountainside—something seen in only a few other temple structures in Japan. It also exhibits early earthquake-resistant techniques, since the structure is made entirely without nails, allowing the joints to move. This spot is extremely popular, so an early start is highly recommended.

On your descent from the temple, why not explore the shops and stalls along Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka slopes? There are number of kilns in the area making it a shopping heaven for ceramics lovers.

1 hour 15 minutes

Take the 206 bus from Kiyomizu Michi Bus Stop to Kyoto Station. Take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya Station

One of Japan’s fastest-growing cities, Nagoya is a major transport hub with convenient access to locations all around Japan. Where the metropolis lacks World Heritage Sites, it makes up for with world-class shopping, dining, and entertainment, making it a suitable rest-stop and place to browse for souvenirs between Kyoto and Takayama. Head to Sakae , the city’s buzzing commercial center marked by Nagoya TV Tower. A number of facilities are based here, including the Fine Arts Museum.

10 minutes

A short distance away from Nagoya Station is the headquarters of the world-renowned Noritake Ceramics . You can tour their workshops for a behind-the-scenes look at how their tableware pieces are made, and also have a go at painting your own. There is also a restaurant where you can pick up a light lunch.

2 hour 22 minutes

Take the JR Hida Line from Nagoya Station to Takayama Station.

Explore the Hida area in Takayama’s environs, home to unique architecture in idyllic, rural surroundings.

A circular route bus that runs on the outskirts of Takayama stops at Hida Folk Village , home to several farmhouses with dramatic, steep thatched roofs, designed to withstand heavy snow. This style of architecture is called gassho-zukuri, after its resemblance to a pair of hands in prayer. The same bus goes to Festa Forest, an underground museum where you can see the ornate floats used in festivals, called yatai, as well as the largest drum in the world and even a collection of clockwork dolls.

Approximately an hour by bus from Takayama, the Shirakawa-go area is comprised of several hamlets of gassho-zukuri homes up to 300 years old. Like UNESCO World Heritage site Gokayama , located another hour away, it is highly photogenic the year round, and an observation deck offers an outstanding view over the valley. Many of the homes here have been converted into quaint shops and accommodations. The former atelier of the famous painter, Jin Homura, serves as a museum for his vibrant acrylic works.

Every autumn at harvest time, the area hosts a five-day-long festival, called Doboroku Matsuri no Yakata. Doboroku refers to home-brewed sake—banned in much of Japan—featuring heavily on this occasion, both as an offering at the major shrines but also as a cause for merriment and dancing by locals. Celebrations center around Shirakawa Hachiman Shrine in the Ogimachi district.

Watch the video: 猿澤池 福興寺 五重塔 Five-Story Pagoda of Kofukuji Temple Sarusawa-ike Pond