Suzaku Gate

During most of the Nara Period (710-794), Nara served as the capital of Japan and was known as Heijo-kyo. The Heijo Palace extended about one kilometer wide and one kilometer long and served as the site of the emperor's residence and government offices. For its great historical and cultural importance, the palace site is included as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Nara.

Although the palace once stood as the majestic center of the ancient capital, all of its original buildings were eventually lost, with the exception of a single hall that was moved in the 8th century and now stands at Toshodaiji Temple. When the capital was moved away from Heijo-kyo in 784, Heijo Palace and a large part of the city were abandoned as officials and other citizens flocked to the new capital. The temples on the outskirts of the former capital, however, retained their importance, and the city of Nara eventually resumed its growth around these temples, while the palace grounds were used for nothing but rice fields.

In more recent times, interest in rediscovering and celebrating Nara's past has revitalized the area. The lack of development on the grounds of the former Heijo Palace made it particularly easy for conducting archaeological research, which has been ongoing since the 1950s. Visitors to Heijo Palace nowadays will still find a rural atmosphere, but the government has gone to considerable lengths to showcase the history of Heijo Palace for visitors with historical reconstructions and museums.

Three major structures of the former palace complex have been reconstructed in recent decades. Foremost among them is the Former Audience Hall (Daigokuden), the largest building on the palace grounds, which was reconstructed for the occasion of the 1300th anniversary of Nara Capital in 2010.

Former Audience Hall

The large audience hall was used as the site of important ceremonies and meetings. Its ceiling is decorated by the four animals of the direction on the compass and the twelve animals of the lunar calendar. A throne stands in the center of the hall. The building is called the "former" audience hall, because it was replaced by the "latter" audience hall in the second half of the Nara Period. The latter audience hall's foundations are visible to the east of the former audience hall.

In front of the audience hall used to be a spacious plaza surrounded by a corridor and an additional gate, the South Gate (Minamimon). The South Gate is currently being reconstructed for completion in spring 2022, while there are future plans to also reconstruct the connecting corridor that surrounds the entire complex.

South Gate being reconstructed

Two more full-scale reconstructions from the 1990s are the Suzaku Gate (Suzakumon), the main gate of the palace to the south, and the East Palace Garden (Toin Teien), which features a pond, streams and bridges, and was used by the imperial family for banquets. Also partially reconstructed were the offices of the Imperial Household Agency (Kunaicho).

The Suzaku Hiroba is a square just outside the Suzaku Gate that features an attractive museum with artefacts and displays about the Nara Period and the former palace grounds. There are also various sightseeing facilities, such as a tourist information center, a restaurant, a cafe, a souvenir shop and a virtual reality theater with an observation deck that overlooks the palace grounds.

East Palace Garden

Furthermore there are various building foundations scattered across the palace grounds, some of which are highlighted by bushes, poles or low walls to indicate the former locations of other palace structures, such as the imperial living quarters and administrative offices.

At the northeast corner of the palace grounds stands the Excavation Site Exhibition Hall, where exposed excavation sites are left open to be viewed by the public. At the western end of the grounds is the Nara Palace Site Museum, a moderately sized, very informative museum with artifacts, models, photographs and maps on display, including several wooden tablets that were widely used as an alternative to more expensive paper during the Nara Period.

Foundation of the Latter Audience Hall


Heijo Palace is located a 15 minute walk east from Yamato-Saidaiji Station, which can be easily reached from Kintetsu Nara Station by Kintetsu trains (5 minutes, 210 yen, frequent departures).

Alternatively, the palace grounds can be reached by bus number 14 bound for Yamato-Saidaiji Station from both JR Nara Station (about 25 minutes) and Kintetsu Nara Station (about 15 minutes). The Excavation Site Exhibition Hall is located near Heijokyuseki ({, 240 yen) bus stop, the Imperial Audience Hall is located near Sakicho (I, 280 yen) bus stop, and the Nara Palace Site Museum is located near Nijocho (, 280 yen) bus stop. There are two buses per hour.

How to get to and around Nara

Hours and Fees

The reconstructions and museums of Heijo Palace


9:00 to 16:30 (entry until 16:00)


Mondays (or following day if Monday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3





Heijokyu Izanai-kan


10:00 to 18:00 (until 18:30 from June to September)
Admission ends 30 minutes before closing


Second Monday of February, April, July and November (following day if that Monday is a holiday), December 29 to January 1





Hotels around Nara

Recommended Hotels
Centrally located ryokan with outdoor baths that view onto the pagoda of Kofukuji Temple.
Agoda Booking
Hotel Fujita Nara
Regular business hotel located halfway between JR Nara Station and Nara Park.
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Nara Hotel
One of the oldest Western style hotels in Japan, located next to Nara Park.
Agoda Booking

Tours and Travel Services