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special feature

Celebrating the 1,300th Anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital

Discover the origin of Japanese culture from the Old Capital

Nara-machiThe Heijo-kyo or the Heijo Capital was Japanís first international capital founded in 710. Therefore this year, 2010, is an incredibly special year for Nara and also for the Japanese nation as it marks the 1,300th anniversary since the capitalís foundation. To celebrate this magnificent occasion, Nara has been organizing a number of celebrative projects. Large-scale main events will start in the spring. Do visit and join in the celebrations and discover the origin of Japanese culture from the Old Capital.
How the Capital Originated
The history and structure of the Heijo-kyo Capital
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In the mid-6th century, Japan's capital was founded in the Asuka area (map D, pg 7). The capital was later moved from Asuka to Fujiwara-kyo (relatively near to the Asuka area), and finally to Heijo-kyo in 710. This Heijo-kyo Capital went on to flourish as Japan's first international capital. Here, Japanís ancient culture blended with various foreign cultures introduced via the Silk Road, laying the foundation of the nation as well as a base for the development of Japan's unique culture and spirit.
Nara is known as a treasure house of Buddhist art, with numerous representative Japanese Buddhist temples and Buddhist statues. It is said that the Shoso-in Treasure Repository marks the eastern extent of the Silk Road, since it holds treasures brought from West Asia and Central Asia via China, with which Japan enjoyed an active cultural exchange.
The capital was modeled after Chang'an, the capital of Tang Dynasty China, although Heijo-kyo Capital was constructed without walls. This dictated the grid system of streets, as well as the necessity for spiritually protective shrines or temples to be placed at particular cardinal directions around the city.
The primary buildings of the palace compound were the Daigoku-den Hall, where governmental affairs were conducted, Chodo-in where formal ceremonies were held, the Dairi, or Emperor's residence, and offices for various administrative agencies. The emperor lived and worked along with many officials and functionaries in the Heijo-kyo Palace, which was situated at the northern end of central Heijo-kyo Capital. Imperial edicts were sent out from the palace to various locations throughout Japan, uniting them into a single country.
When the capital was moved to Heian-kyo (present-day Kyoto), Nara's Imperial Palace was simply abandoned. Over the centuries, the ravages of time and the elements slowly destroyed the buildings, until, by the beginning of the Kamakura Period in the late 12th century, there was practically nothing remaining above ground. The local people began to use the site for rice fields without knowing this was once the site of a huge palace, thus those sections that lay underground were unknowingly preserved.
The first time the Heijo-kyo Capital was recognized again was in the late Edo period and early Meiji period (late 19th century). Certain archaeologists and some local people made great efforts to research and prove that the ancient capital had once stood on the site. Without their efforts, this yearís celebration would not be happening today.
While the site was designated as a Special Historical Site by the Agency for Cultural Affairs in 1952, archaeological efforts and excavations headed by the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties have continued since 1959. The Suzaku-mon Gate and To-in Garden were restored and opened to the public in 1998. In addition, the restoration of the Daigoku-den Hall was recently completed in 2009.
In Nara lie the origins of the history, culture and spirit of Japan and of the Japanese people. Traditional events and performing arts with a long history are still performed in the temples and shrines throughout Nara. To learn more about the Heijo-kyo Capital or the 1,300th anniversary celebration, visit:
Spring Main Events for the 1,300th Anniversary Celebration at the Old Site of Heijo-kyo Palace
The main events of the 1,300th anniversary celebration will start in spring and continue until the end of this year. There will be many interesting and fun events organized throughout the prefecture. Some of the large-scale must-see events will be held on the site where the Heijo-kyo Capital used to stand. Do join in and enjoy the celebration!
Mushiko Mado Windows
Mushiko Mado WindowsApril 24-Nov. 7:Heijo-kyo History Museum
Experience the history of nation building through videos and exhibits
Heijo-kyo History Museum will feature a range of exhibit areas designed to introduce the early history of nation building, as well as life and culture in ancient times. This will include two theaters where visitors can view videos recreating the magnificence of the international capital of Heijo-kyo.
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 the Chinese Tang Dynasty empire. Exhibitions highlighting cultural exchanges with ancient East Asian countries and the daily life of people in the Heijo-kyo Capital will also be presented.
Open: 9:00-16:30 (until 17:00 on Sat., Sun., national holidays from April); Entry: Adults: 500 yen, Students: 250 yen, Children under 15: 200 yen; Free of charge for foreigners (passport or ID required).
Life-size Replica of the Japanese Diplomatic Ship
A life-size replica of the diplomatic ship (about 30 meters wide and 15 meters high) that carried Japanís envoys to Chinaís Tang Dynasty will be on display at the museum. You can board the ship and experience what it must have been like for the envoys to walk on deck.
Mushiko Mado WindowsApril 24-Nov. 7:Heijo-kyo Narikiri Experience Museum
Travel to the Tempyo Period and experience Heijo-kyo life.
The Heijo-kyo Narikiri Experience Museum is a large scale experience-based facility where visitors can learn about the life and culture of people in the Heijo-kyo Capital through their clothing, employment, industries, crafts, etc..
Tempyo Era Costume Experience
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 wear colorful imperial court officer finery. The costumes are available for children too.
Open: 9:00-16:30 (until 17:30 on Sat., Sun., national holidays from April); Entry: adults: 500 yen, students: 250 yen, children under 15: 200 yen; free of charge for foreigners (passport required).
Heijo-kyo Capital Officer Work Experience: Writing on wood strips
Wood strips, or mokkan, were used as an important tool to record information. A number of wood strips were excavated from the palace site. You can try to learn how to make mokkan and record a handwritten inscription on it.
Open: 9:15-16:30; 9 times a day (until 17:15 on Sat., Sun., national holidays from April; 10 times a day); Entry: adults: 500 yen, students: 250 yen, children under 15: 200 yen; free of charge for foreigners (passport required).
Migawari Saru Guardian MonkeyDaigoku-den Hall
Daigoku-den Hall was used as the venue for important political and ceremonial occasions. The hallís interior contains a reproduction of the emperorís seat. Visitors can dress in Nara-period costume and take photos in front of the hall.
Migawari Saru Guardian MonkeySuzaku-mon Gate
Suzaku-mon Gate served as the official gate for the Heijo-kyo Capital and foreign deputies always entered through its portals. Guards dressed in classic costume will be on duty in front of the gate every day to show observers how the gate was guarded in former days.
Migawari Saru Guardian MonkeyTo-in Garden
To-in Garden served as an exclusive leisure garden for emperor. This classic Japanese garden with its pond is an ideal place to take a spring stroll.
Exchange Plaza
A wide range of stage events, exhibitions and shops will be featured along with traditional performances and processions.
April 24-Nov. 7:Nara Palace Site Self-guided Tour
Explore the magnificent international capital with mobile terminal
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 language: English, Chinese, Korean, French.
9:00-16:30 (until 17:30 on Sat., Sun., national holidays): 500 yen; free of charge if passport is shown.
Other Exhibits and Events
April 24-May 9: Mahoroba Stage ďSpring FeastĒ:On the Mahoroba Stage (in the Exchange Plaza), music, dance and other entertaining performances will be held.
April 24-May 9: Flower & Greenery Fair:The palace will be reproduced in all its splendor and natural beauty as every corner of the site is decorated with flowers and greenery. Visitors can enjoy a variety of events featuring ancient performing arts arranged in a contemporary style, including song and dance performances on the Mahoroba Stage, parades, and musicals.
April 24-Nov. 6: Aoniyoshi Parade:People dressed in the finery of the Tempyo Era, will march along a section of the site while performing traditional dance and music. Two performances daily in the morning and afternoon, free of charge.

Spring 2010

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