When you ride the Kintetsu Nara Line from Yamato Saidai-ji Station to Nara Station, just outside your window you will see some vermilion-colored buildings out in a vast, wide field.
This is the Nara Palace Site Historical Park.
It is a park run by the national government, and is one of the World Heritage sites registered under the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara”.
In 2018, it opened as Nara Palace Site Historical Park.
At the moment, many parts of it are still being reconstructed. Places like the south gate of the Daiichiji Daigokuden-in area, etc. are under reconstruction, but they have made a special point of opening them to the public while under construction, so visitors can see what kind of work is going on.
Heijo-kyo was the capital that was built 1,300 years ago in what is now Nara City.
It moved here in 710, and it prospered as the largest city in Japan until the capital was moved again 74 years later. The model for Heijo-kyo was Chang’an, the capital city of Tang China. In this capital laid out in squares like a chess board, it is said that over 100,000 people had been living here at the time.
The walking tour starts at JR Nara Station.
You will head to the Nara Palace Site Historical Park with a local English-speaking guide, either on foot or by taking a bus.
The park is split into the Suzaku-mon Hiroba Square, which is the front entrance and a tourist hub, and the Daiichiji Daigokuden-in, the symbol of the park and main location for restorative work and exhibition of remains.
At the entrance of the park, we first notice a reconstruction of the vessel that was used for the Japanese missions to Tang China. At the Tempyo Umashi-kan, you can pass by the Japanese Missions to Tang China History Corner, and step into the reconstructed vessel.
(Kentoshi-sen or reconstruction of the vessel)
There is also a cafe and a restaurant from where you can enjoy the scenery of the park, so feel free to stop by before or after your historical walk through the park.
Walking north along the main street of Heijo-kyo, Suzaku Road, the street comes to an end at the main entrance of the palace, the Suzaku-mon Gate. In the Nara period, this was where ceremonies to send ambassadors abroad were held. The current Suzaku-mon Gate was reconstructed in 1998.
Another place to see is the Daiichiji Daigokuden-in, located farther north in the palace.
Including Daigokuden, this palace was a central place where meetings between emperors and foreign diplomats, and other important national ceremonies were held.
(Suzaku-mon Gate and Suzaku-mon Square)
At the “Reconstruction Information Center”, you can learn about all of the construction work going into the Daiichiji Daigokuden-in from displays, replications, and large videos, etc.
Walking around the park and hearing the English-speaking guide’s explanations usually takes about three hours. Including the bus ride to and from, it is a three and a half hour tour.
Wouldn’t you like to take a walk through this historic park, thinking about life 1,300 years ago in this ancient capital, and feeling the wind that hasn’t changed since then?