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Celebrating the 1,300th Anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital in 2010

COOL JAPANESE SCENE / Kansai & Kyoto (73)

The year 2010 marks the 1,300th anniversary of the founding of Nara’s Heijo-kyo Capital.
This is a wonderful opportunity for the people of Nara as well as the entire nation to celebrate the foundation of the basis of Japanese civilization and culture.
Starting from the end of the 6th century, the capital of Japan was located in Nara for almost 200 years.
The Heijyo-kyo Capital and the Nara period (710-794) has become especially noteworthy in Japanese history.
It was a period of intense cultural development resulting in some magnificent artistic and architectural achievements.
To celebrate this magnificent occasion, Nara has been already begun planning and organizing a number of projects. Learn about Heijo-kyo Capital and see how much rich historical heritage Nara has to offer.
Nara is an ancient capital that lets you feel the essence of Japanese culture.

In ancient times, Japan's Imperial Palace would move with the ascension of every new Emperor.
This tradition was discontinued in 710, when Heijo, present day Nara, was selected as the site of the country's first permanent capital.
Despite the intentions to make it permanent, Heijo-kyo (Nara Capital) lasted less than a century.
Because the city's large temples exerted too much political influence, the capital was eventually moved to Nagaoka in 784 and then to Kyoto in 794.

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On the 1300th anniversary of Heijo-kyo, some major reconstruction works have been carried out on the former grounds of Heijo Palace, and various special events will be held. Anniversary related events start from January 1, 2010, but the celebration will not be in full swing until April 24, when the main venue is opened on the former grounds of the Heijo Palace.

Nara's controversial mascot Sento-kun counts down the days to the anniversary

Reconstruction of historic buildings


After the capital had been moved out of Nara, the palace structures were moved or abandoned, and within a relatively short time period there was little evidence left of the area's glorious past. For the following millennium, the former palace grounds were mainly used as rice fields until major excavation works were started in the 1950s.

In 1998, the South Gate and the East Garden of the former palace grounds were reconstructed and opened to the public. And for the big anniversary in 2010, the former Imperial Audience Hall has been reconstructed and will be opened to the public in April. The palace grounds will serve as the main venue of the celebrations.

Apart from the palace grounds, some of Nara's major temples have been engaging in renovation and reconstruction projects as well. In time for the anniversary, Toshodaiji Temple, southwest of central Nara, finished the extensive renovation of its main hall, which lasted for almost a decade. And Kofukuji Temple in the city center has completed excavation works and the construction of the foundation for the reconstruction of its main hall, which had been lost in the past (to be completed in 2015).


The main celebrations and events will be carried out from April 24 to November 7, 2010 on the former grounds of Heijo Palace. Among the announced events and attractions are exhibitions on the history of Nara, a life-size replica of a ship used for diplomatic relations with the Asian mainland, parades, hand-on experience opportunities and music and light shows.

The events and reconstructions surrounding the anniversary create an additional reason to visit Nara in 2010, besides the city's regular historic sights and annual events. Some events will also be held in other locations of Nara Prefecture, the cradle of Japanese civilization, such as in the lesser known towns of Asuka and Yoshino.

The reconstruction of the Imperial Audience Hall is still underway (November 2009)

By T.S. on Dec 18, 2009
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Author:T. SATOH