Todai-ji Temple was built in the year 741 under the orders of Emperor Shomu, who was then gearing the country with Buddhism at its center. The Daibutsu or statue of the Great Buddha took 3 years to finish and was considered a project that the whole nation poured its efforts into. It was opened to the public in the year 752 with a grand ceremony called “kaigenkuyou” wherein the eyes of the statue are inserted, which is taken to mean that the statue has a soul.
In 1180, most of the temples in Nara were burned down under the orders of Taira no Shigehara, including Todai-ji and the Daibutsu. However, a monk named Chogen devoted most of his life to solicit for help in rebuilding Todai-ji. Unfortunately it was again destroyed by fire in 1567 by a war caused by Hisahide Matsunaga. The Todai-ji Temple which stands until today took until the middle of the Edo Period to finish reconstruction.
The well-known sitting figure of the Great Buddha statue enshrined in its own hall, the Tengaimon Gate which are remains of the original Todai-ji Temple, the Nandaimon Gate which is considered a masterpiece from the reconstruction of Todai-ji during the Kamakura Period, and the Hokkedo Hall and Nigatsudo Hall are all declared national treasures of Japan. Various statues which symbolize great Buddhist works from the Tempyo and Kamakura Periods can also be seen here, which are also said to be must-see sights here at Todai-ji Temple. The temple has also been declared as a cultural property of old Nara and thus, a World Heritage Site in December 1998.
(Photo credit: creative commons)
November to February: 8:00 AM-4:30 PM
March: 8:00 AM-5:00 PM
April to September: 7:30 AM-5:30 PM
October: 7:30 AM-5:00 PM
Entrance fee to Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall) and other halls
*Group discounts available
Paid parking lot available (16 spaces for normal vehicles, 70 spaces for buses)