japanesecontact us

Up-to-date and essential English tourist information about Nara for international visitors


Nara Explorer is Nara's first and only English tourist magazine.

For further information,click here.

special feature

Autumn Events in To-in Garden & Other Event Highlights

Celebrating the 1300th Anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital

Nara-machiThe Heijo-kyo Capital flourished as Japan’s first international capital. Here, ancient Japanese culture blended with various foreign cultures introduced through the Silk Road. Thus, the origins of the history, culture and spirit of Japan and of the Japanese people all lie in Nara. The year 2010 marks the 1300th anniversary since the establishment of the Heijo-kyo. Nara is holding a number of special events to commemorate this year and some large-scale main events will take place this autumn. Do join them and discover the essence of Japan!
Japan’s Imperial Elegance Embodied in a Garden: To-in Garden
new shop
The remains of an ancient garden were discovered in 1967 on the eastern edge of the Heijo-kyo Palace site. Though mentioned in various old historical records, it wasn’t until then that people could truly discern the actual garden itself. A full-scale excavation began and finally the whole picture of this imperial garden was revealed.
Measuring 80 meters by 100 meters and called To-in Garden (literally East Palace Garden), there is a large pond in the center ringed with various wooden structures. Important court rituals and ceremonies were held here and it was also the place for emperors and court nobles to enjoy their leisure time. Two red bridges span the pond while verandas project over it from the surrounding buildings, nearby a dry landscape garden with rocks… The structure of the garden was meticulously deliberated and reflects the superb elegance of that era. Here you can find the original beauty of a Japanese garden which subtly attempts to artificially recreate the state of nature in a limited space.
To-in Garden has been open to the public since 1998. Autumn plants and flowers (cypress, plum, peach, cherry, willow tree, camellia, azaleas, etc.) will welcome you to the true atmosphere of the Nara period as they were selected based on thorough historical research that ascertained their existence over a thousand years ago.
Mushiko Mado WindowsSpecial Events in the To-in Garden
Tempyo Tea Ceremony Party (Oct. 9-Nov. 7)
When they returned from China, Japanese diplomats brought back a number of important customs and foodstuffs - one of which was green tea. Based on old historical records, taste of green tea in the Nara period was recreated. People dressed in Nara-period attire will make a bowl of green tea for you in the elegant atmosphere of the To-in Garden. The tea will be served with a Japanese sweet.
Gokusui no En Poetry Reading Game(Oct. 9, 11, 16, 17, 23, 30, Nov. 3 13:00-14:00)
Gokusui no En is an elegant Nara-period entertainment enjoyed by imperial nobles. First played by the nobles of the imperial court, poets in period costume sitting along the lush banks of a stream must compose a poem before a sake cup floats by them. Traditional music and dance will also be performed.
To-in Garden Oto Emaki Music Festival(Oct. 29, 30, 31, Nov. 2, 3, 5, 6 18:00-19:00)
Special music and dance performances will be held on these autumn evenings in To-in Garden. Traditional Japanese music, guitar, dance, singing and other music performances will make for a romantic and unforgettable night. Note: Tickets are sold only through a major ticket outlet. For details, visit their website ( or ask your concierge to purchase.
Other Autumn Event Highlights in the Heijo-kyo Palace Site
Mushiko Mado WindowsRecreation of Ancient Rituals
Sumai no Sechi-e (Oct. 11 at main festival site)
It is said that Japan’s national sport of Sumo wrestling originated in Nara. Sumai no Sechi-e was an official match held in front of the emperor. The match will be recreated along with an explanation and video. Traditional court music and dance will be also performed.
Umayumi (Oct. 31 at Second Daigokuden)
Umayumi was an acrobatic horse riding ritual during the Nara period. Wearing traditional costume, the horseman performs archery while riding on a horse galloping at full speed. Observers can pose for pictures with the horseman.
Jarai (Oct. 24 at First Chodoin)
Jarai was an official arrow shooting ritual in the imperial court during the Nara period. A man dressed in the special costume follows the way of ritual and shoots arrows. Traditional court music and dance will be also performed.
Heisei Sangaku Music & Street Performance (Oct. 9-Nov. 6)
Many forms of art and culture were brought to Nara in the Nara period via the Silk Road. Performers dressed in colorful costumes will perform entertaining and exciting performances (magic, dance, imitation, etc.).
Kemari (Nov. 6 at main festival site)
Kemari is an unusual form of football game started in the Asuka era (6th century). Men dressed in the traditional court costume attempt to kick a ball to each other in a manner so that it does not touch the ground. Members of the audience can also learn how to play this unique and enjoyable festive sport.
Mushiko Mado WindowsSpecial Attractions and Exhibitions at the Heijo-kyo Palace Site
Heijo-kyo History Museum
Heijo-kyo History Museum will feature a range of exhibit areas designed to introduce the early history of nation building, as well as the life and culture of ancient times. One theatre will show scenes of the Heijo-kyo Capital reproduced by cutting-edge virtual-reality technology based on thorough historical research. The other will present the adventures of the Japanese envoys crossing the rough seas in the 8th century by sailing ship to visit China.
Heijo-kyo Narikiri Experience Museum
Dress up in the Tempyo Era (late 7th-early 8th century) costume and take photos in front of a large screen with a virtual-reality background of the Heijo-kyo Capital! Both men and women can wear colorful imperial court officer finery. The costumes are available for children too.
Heijo-kyo Palace Site Tour
To help you know more about the Heijo-kyo Capital, a special mobile terminal is available for foreign visitors. You can learn about the past while you enjoy strolling around the vast Heijo-kyo Capital site. Available languages: English, Chinese, Korean, French.
Nara Explorer Recommended Souvenirs, Gifts and Memories from the Ancient Capital
Migawari Saru Guardian MonkeyBeautiful designs from the Shoso-in Repository, the inheritance from the Nara period
Shoso-in is Japan’s most important repository. It contains more than 9,000 important cultural treasures. These folding fans depict the elegant figures of the phoenix in various forms; a black one shows dignity and white one looks cool. The folding fans are available at Maruju Bussan along with other Shoso-in designs (flower bells, deer, etc.).
Folding fan depicting ancient designs from the Shoso-in Repository “Phoenix” 3,360 yen
Maruju Bussan
Tel: 0742-26-6337 / A 10-min. walk from Todai-ji Temple Daibutsu-den Hall, at the foot of Mount Wakakusa / Open everyday: 9:30-17:00
Migawari Saru Guardian MonkeyOne-of-a-kind art & crafts from Nara
Lotus flower is a symbol of birth and creativity in Buddhism. Using shells for decoration, this brooch emanates a subdued sheen. It is created by one artist, Fumiroku, who uses the same technique as was utilized for Buddhist art decoration in the Nara period (8th century). You are free to watch as Fumiroku skillfully crafts her art in her shop.
Brooch “Lotus flower”:from 6,500 yen
Tel: 0742-24-5532 / 2F of Naramachi Kobo 2, about 15 min. walk from Kintetsu Nara Sta., west from Daijo-in Garden / Open: 11:00-18:00 / Closed: Mon.
Migawari Saru Guardian MonkeyCute and original Tabi socks with Nara designs
Tabi is a traditional Japanese sock split into two sections (between the big toe and other toes). These cute socks depict the charming original designs of Nara: the deer character “Roku”, five story pagoda, etc.. Wear them yourself or get them as a present for your friends from Nara!
Nara Tabi Socks Adults: 520 yen, Children: 450 yen
Tel: 0742-26-3588 / About 10 min. walk from JR Nara Sta., about 50 meters to the west from Sarusawa Pond (2nd floor of the building) / Open: 11:00-19:00 / Closed: Wed.

Autumn 2010

back number