We all know that Nara has a lot of old and historical buildings.
Daibutsu-den Hall, the most famous building in Nara where the Great Buddha houses, was first bulit in 758. (The current bulding was the one rebuilt in 1709 after several fires)
And Horyu-ji Temple has the oldest extant wooden buildings in the world.
After watching all these wonderful World Heritage Sites and traditional buildings,
how about exploring some newer and more unique ones? :)
Beautiful Buildings from Meiji Era
After the end of the national isolation for over 200 years and beginning of the Meiji era (1868-1912), the new government aggressively pursued modernization, aiming to become internationally recognized as a civilized nation. A variety of Western cultures such as fashion, food, and technologies as well as architecture had flowed into Japan (mainly in urban areas), and Western-style architecture made of stone and brick had come to be seen. Such buildings are typically called “Kindai Kenchiku” (translated as modern architecture, but Western architecture may be more suitable English word) in current Japan.
The Nara Buddhist Sculpture Hall (Original Museum Building) is a brick building completed in 1894, designed by Katayama Tōkuma, an architectural designer of the Imperial Household Agency. The building adopts the architectural style of the peak of French Renaissance. Especially noted for the decorative ornamentation around its West Entrance, this building is an outstanding example of mid-Meiji period European-style architecture. In 1969, the building was designated as an Important Cultural Property under the official name “Former Imperial Nara Museum Original Museum Building.” Here you can see approximately 100 works of Japanese sculpture from 7th to 14th centuries.
Open Hours: 9:30 - 17:00 (Last admission at 16:30)
Closed on: Mondays
Access: Take a city loop bus from JR Nara station or Kintetsu Nara station, and get off at "Himuro-jinja, Kokuritsu-hakubutsukan" bus stop. / A 15-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara station. (Google Map)
The Buddhist Art Library was built in 1902 as an exhibition hall for local Nara Prefecture products. It was designed by a scholar of architectural history trained as an architect named Tadashi Sekino (1867–1935). In its overall design, the building makes reference to the Phoenix Hall (Hō’ō-dō) at the Byōdō-in Temple in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture. The building is made of wood and has a double-roof of pantiles: curved overlapping roof tiles. Its façade features a porch with an undulating gable (kara hafu). The building was designed to harmonize with its Nara Park surroundings. Particularly in its elegant integration of Western and Japanese stylistic elements, it exemplifies architecture of the Meiji era (1868–1912). The building was later renamed the Nara Prefecture Commerce and Industry Exhibition Hall. In 1951, the hall’s management was transferred to the Japanese government, and until 1980 it was used as the office of the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. It is now used as the Buddhist Art Library to facilitate the creation, collection, organization, and conservation of research and resources contributing to knowledge of Buddhist art. Since 1989, the books, journals, and photographs held at the Buddhist Art library have been accessible to the general public.
Open Hours: 9:30 - 16:30 (Last admission at 16:00)
Open on: Wednesdays and Fridays *Reservation required
Closed on: Holidays and from December 26th to January 4th
Access: Take a city loop bus from JR Nara station or Kintetsu Nara station, get off at "Himuro-jinja, Kokuritsu-hakubutsukan" bus stop, and walk for 5 minutes. / An 8-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara station. (Google Map)
Nara Hotel (奈良ホテル) is a five star hotel in Nara, Japan. The hotel is located on the hillside overlooking Nara Park. Opened on October 17, 1909, it is one of the most historic hotels in Japan. It was designed by Tatsuno Kingo who was also the designer of the Bank of Japan building and the Marunouchi building of Tokyo Station and is known as the teacher of Kenkichi Yabashi, the designer of National Diet Building, and Kataoka Yasushi who was also the designer of Osaka City Hall. It is partially owned by the West Japan Railway Company. In 2009 the first centennial anniversary of the hotel was celebrated.
Open Hours: N/A *Ask at a front desk for a day visit
Access: Take a city loop bus from JR Nara station or Kintetsu Nara station, and get off at "Nara Hotel" bus stop. (Google Map)
The Former Nara Prison, designed by Keijiro Yamashita, a public worker for the Ministry of Law who designed many prisons and court houses, was built in July, 1908 (the 41st year of Meiji), as one of those five prisons called “the Meiji Five Great Prisons” interspersed across the country (their locations were Chiba, Kanazawa, Nara, Nagasaki, and Kagoshima). Most of construction work was carried out by prisoners, and the bricks used were supplied from kilns they built themselves, as history tells. The Romanesque red brick edifice, with beautiful as well as profound taste still now lingering, has then-advanced technology and design elaborated here and there, and the central region of the grounds with an area of about 106,000 square meters is allotted for detention wards extending radially, which is called “Havilland system”. The Former Nara Prison, after closing its over 100 years’ life as a detention house in March, 2017 (the 29th year of Heisei), was designated as an important cultural asset in February, the same year, with its whole structure intact. It will be renovated into a "prison hotel" in the near future.
Access: Take a Nara Kotsu bus bound for Aoyama-jutaku (#81, #118,#153) from JR Nara station or Kintetsu-Nara station and get off at "Hannya-ji" bus stop. (Google Map)