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Todaiji (東大寺, Tōdaiji, "Great Eastern Temple") is one of Japan's most famous and historically significant temples and a landmark of Nara. The temple was constructed in 752 as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan and grew so powerful that the capital was moved from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 in order to lower the temple's influence on government affairs.

Until recently, Todaiji's main hall, the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall), held the record as the world's largest wooden building, despite the fact that the present reconstruction of 1692 is only two thirds of the original temple hall's size. The massive building houses one of Japan's largest bronze statues of Buddha (Daibutsu). The 15 meters tall, seated Buddha represents Vairocana and is flanked by two Bodhisattvas.

Several smaller Buddhist statues and models of the former and current buildings are also on display in the Daibutsuden Hall. Another popular attraction is a pillar with a hole in its base that is the same size as the Daibutsu's nostril. It is said that those who can squeeze through this opening will be granted enlightenment in their next life.

Along the approach to Todaiji stands the Nandaimon Gate, a large wooden gate watched over by two fierce looking statues. Representing the Nio Guardian Kings, the statues are designated national treasures together with the gate itself. Temple visitors will also encounter some deer from the adjacent Nara Park, begging for shika senbei, special crackers for deer that are sold for around 200 yen.

Todaiji's grounds are spacious and cover most of northern Nara Park, including a number of smaller temple halls and sites of interest around the Daibutsuden Hall. Below are some of the other attractions that can be found in the Todaiji temple complex:

Todaiji Museum

Hours: 9:30 to closing time of Daibutsuden Hall
Closed: between exhibitions
Admission: 600 yen (museum only), 1000 yen (museum and Daibutsuden Hall)
The Todaiji Museum was opened to the public in 2011 just next to the Nandaimon Gate, along the main approach to the Daibutsuden Hall. Rotating exhibitions from the temple's large collection of religious art and cultural treasures, including large Buddhist statues, are held at the museum.

Nigatsudo Hall

Hours: Always open
Admission: Free
The Nigatsudo Hall is a short walk on the hill east of the Daibutsuden Hall and offers nice views of the city from its balcony. The hall is the site of the spectacular Omizutori ceremonies, held in March every year.

Approach to Nigatsudo Hall

The side approach to Nigatsudo Hall is a quiet and picturesque street that is not far from the back of the Daibutsuden Hall. Stone walls flank the side of the street, and the Nigatsudo can be seen at the end of the path.

Hokkedo Hall

Hours: Same hours as the Daibutsuden Hall
Closed: No closing days
Admission: 700 yen
The Hokkedo, also known as the Sangatsudo, is one of the oldest surviving structures in the Todaiji temple complex. It is a short walk east of the Daibutsuden Hall, beside Nigatsudo Hall. The building houses a statue of Kannon, surrounded by Buddhist guardians.

Kaidando Hall

Closed for about three years from July 1, 2020 for renovation works
Rebuilt in the Edo Period, the Kaidando Hall originally dates back to the 8th century when it served as Japan's most important ordination hall. Today, it houses celebrated clay statues of the four heavenly kings (shitenno).

Shosoin Storehouse

Hours: 10:00 to 15:00
Closed: Weekends and national holidays, December 28 to January 4
Admission: Free
The Shosoin is a large storehouse constructed in the 8th century. Located a five minute walk behind the Daibutsuden Hall, the building is elevated on stilts and used to store the treasures of Todaiji Temple and the Imperial Family. It can be viewed by tourists from the outside only.

Former site of the Lecture Hall

The former site of the Lecture Hall can be found directly behind the Daibutsuden Hall, on the way to the Shosoin. All that remains of the former temple building are some stone foundations in the ground.

Site of former east pagoda

In the past, Todaiji's Daibutsuden Hall was flanked by two seven-storied pagodas that were about 100 meters tall. In 2015, the exact location of the former east pagoda was ascertained. The excavated area (shown on the photo) has since been covered up, and there are plans to rebuilt the pagoda to its former glory.

Getting there and around

Todaiji is located in the northern part of Nara Park. It is about a 30 minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, or about a 45 minute walk from JR Nara Station. It can also be reached by bus from either station. Get off at Todaiji Daibutsuden from where it is a 5-10 minute walk to Todaiji's main building.

How to get to and around Nara

Hours and Fees

Daibutsuden Hall

Hours

7:30 to 17:30 (April to October)
8:00 to 17:00 (November to March)

Closed

No closing days

Admission

600 yen

Hotels around Nara

Top rated in Nara
Budget:
    • Guest House Oku
      Budget-friendly
      A 5-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, Guest House Oku is located a 15-minute walk from JR Nara station. Guest House Oku features a total of 3 guest rooms and free WiFi throughout the property. All rooms come with air conditioning. A toilet and shower is available for guests. You will find luggage storage space at the property. Kofuku-ji is 900 metres from Guest House Oku, while Todaiji Temple is 1.4 km away. Kansai International Airport is a 95-minute limousine bus ride away.
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    • NARA Visitor Center and Inn
      Budget-friendly
      The Nara Visitor Center and Inn is situated in the heart of Nara, just a 3-minute walk from Kofuku-ji Temple and Naramachi. The Todai-ji Temple and Deer Park are a 10-minute stroll away, while Nara Station on the Kintetsu Line is a 7-minute walk. JR Nara Station is 14-minutes away on foot. All guest rooms feature air conditioning and heating, and are equipped with a fridge and flat-screen TV. Japanese samue nightwear are available to all staying guests. Some units come equipped with an en suite bathroom with a shower, while some Japanese-style rooms come with an en suite shower. Japanese-style rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. The property offers free WiFi access and a 24-hour front desk. Luggage storage is available. There is a public bath on site, where guests will find free toiletries and hairdryers. A coin launderette, a shared kitchen and free-use internet PCs are offered on site. The on-site tourist information desk offers information in English, Chinese and Korean. Services offered at the desk include transport and meal tickets at a discount, currency exchange, bike hire at a charge, cultural activities at an additional charge, such as Japanese calligraphy lessons, and tour arrangements. Some cultural activities such as origami folding are offered free of charge.
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    • Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park
      Budget-friendly
      Situated in Nara, near Nara Park, Kasuga Taisha and Kofuku-ji Temple, Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park features free WiFi. Each unit is fitted with air conditioning, private bathroom and a kitchen including a microwave, fridge, stovetop and a toaster. If you would like to discover the area, hiking is possible in the surroundings. Todai-ji Temple is 2.4 km from the lodge, while Heijo Palace Ruins is 6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 39 km from Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park.
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    • Guesthouse Tamura
      Budget-friendly
      Renovating a Japanese-style private house with a 100-year history, Guesthouse Tamura offers an accommodation in Fushigazushi-cho, Nara. Kintetsu Nara Station is a 13-minute walk away, while Kasuga Taisha Shrine is a 20-minute stroll. Every room comes with a shared bathroom. Some rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) flooring and Japanese futon bedding. You will find luggage storage space at the property. Vegetarian meals can be offered upon request. Kofuku-ji is 8 minutes on foot from Guesthouse Tamura, while Nara Park is a 20-minute stroll away. Osaka Itami Airport is 38 km from the property.
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    • Yuzan Guesthouse
      Budget-friendly
      Conveniently located a 5-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station and a 8-minute walk from JR Nara Station, Yuzan Guest House Annex offers cosy accommodation with a shared kitchen. Free WiFi access is available throughout the property. Each room is simply decorated and comes with air conditioning and heating facilities. Guests can choose to stay in Japanese-style rooms featuring tatami (woven-straw) floor and futon bedding. Bathroom facilities are shared. At Guest House Yuzan Annex you will find a small garden, a terrace and a shared lounge. Free luggage storage is also available upon request. Guests can make a 10-minute stroll to the Nara Park, located in the city central area. Todaiji Temple and Heijo Palace are both a 10-minute drive away while Kansai International Airport can be reached with a 80-minute drive. Meals are not served on site.
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    • Guesthouse Naramachi
      Budget-friendly
      The 100-year old Guesthouse Naramachi offers simple Japanese-style accommodation just a 5-minute walk from JR Kyobate Train Station. The property is completely non-smoking. It offers massages, bicycle rental and free Wi-Fi throughout. The World Heritage registered Nara Park is a 10-minute walk away. Guests at Naramachi can choose a private room with tatami (woven-straw) flooring and Japanese futon beds. All rooms are air-conditioned, and bathrooms and toilets are shared. Bath towels, washclothes and Yukata robes can be rented. JR Nara Train Station is a 20-minute walk, and Kofuku-ji Temple is a pleasant 10-minute walk away through the traditional streets of Nara. Gangoji Temple and three public baths are available within a 5-minute walk. Various types of bicycles can be rented. A free-use kitchenette is provided, with a microwave, fridge and electric kettle. At time of booking, you must inform the hotel what time you plan to check in. If your check-in time changes, please update the hotel. Guests who require parking must inform the hotel at time of booking.
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    • Kotonoyado Musashino
      Luxury
      Kotono yado Musashino offers accommodation in Nara, and is located a 11-minute drive from Nara Station on the Kintetsu Nara Line. Free WiFi is provided throughout the property and free private parking is available on site. Every room includes a flat-screen TV. You will find a kettle in the room. Rooms include a shared bathroom. For your comfort, you will find slippers and a hair dryer. There is luggage storage space at the property. The ryokan also offers free use of bicycles. Kofuku-ji is 1.1 km from Musashino, while Kasuga Taisha is 300 metres from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
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    • Guest House En
      Budget-friendly
      Guest House En is set in Nara, within 2.5 km of Todai-ji Temple and 2.7 km of Kasuga Taisha. Featuring a shared lounge, the 2-star guest house has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a shared bathroom. The guest house features family rooms. Guest rooms in the guest house are equipped with a kettle. The units will provide guests with a microwave. Popular points of interest near Guest House En include Kofuku-ji Temple, Naramachi and Gangoji Temple. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 38 km from the accommodation.
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    • Hotel Rokune
      Mid-range
      Located in Nara, Hotel Rokune provides accommodation with private balconies. Around 1.4 km from Kofuku-ji Temple, the property is also 2.3 km away from Heijo Palace Ruins and offers free WiFi. The property is set 2.3 km from Todai-ji Temple and 2.5 km from Nara Park. All units are equipped with air conditioning, a microwave, a fridge, a kettle, a bidet, a hairdryer and a desk. At the hotel every room is equipped with a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Hotel Rokune offers a terrace. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Naramachi, Gangoji Temple and Nara Prefectural Art Museum. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 36 km from Hotel Rokune.
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    • Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring
      Luxury
      Featuring natural hot spring baths on site, Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring is set in Nara, just a 3-minute walk from JR Nara Station. Free WiFi is available throughout the property, and private parking is available on site. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Kofuku-ji Temple is 15 minutes on foot. All rooms include a flat-screen TV and electric kettle in the room. Rooms have a private bathroom fitted with a bath or shower and bidet. For your comfort, you will find slippers, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Extras include a fridge and toothbrushes. There is a 24-hour front desk at the property. Free luggage storage service is provided. Todaiji Temple is 10 minutes by car from Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring, while Nara Park is a 20-minute stroll from the property. Osaka Itami Airport is 37 km away.
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