Horyu-ji, sometimes called Ikaruga-dera, is the head temple of Shotoku Sect. It is one of the the Seven Great Temples of Nara, along with Kofuku-ji, Todai-ji, Saidai-ji, Yakushi-ji, Ganko-ji, and Daian-ji, which were under the protection of the Imperial Court in the Nara Period. It is part of UNESCO World Heritage Site “Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area.”
Horyu-ji was established in 607 by Prince Shotoku, a legendary prince who established a firm foothold of Buddhism in Japan.
The temple was at first planned to be built by Emperor Yomei, the 31st emperor of Japan who reigned the country from 585 to 587, to pray for the recovery from his own illness, but he passed away shortly after that, and the plan was passed on to his successor Empress Suiko and his son Prince Shotoku.
What makes this temple so notable is that some of its structures are the oldest surviving wooden ones in the world.
Kondo (the main hall), Goju-no-to (the five-storied pagoda), Chumon (the middle gate), and Kairo (the cloister) are considered to be constructed in the late 7th century, being the oldest existing wooden buildings in the globe. Another very famous construction is Yumedono (the dream hall), an octagonal hall created in the 8th century which is dedicated to Prince Shotoku.
Yumedono Kannon placed inside the hall will be disclosed in spring and fall. Some 18 buildings, including abovementioned five, are designated as National Treasures, and another 37 structures are Important Cultural Properties.
Not only constructions, but a lot of sculptures, paintings and other artifacts are designated as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties, nearly 190 in total.
In spring, there is a ceremony celebrating the anniversary of Prince Shotoku’s passing. Cherry blossoms are also pretty in this season. Colorful foliage is beautiful in autumn, and in winter, solemn rituals are practiced in cold halls lit by lanterns.
Where to eat around Horyu-ji
Genmaian is a restraunt whose selling point is its healthy menu. Its lunch set based on macrobiotics is popular among women – it’s not only healthy but filling.
The restaurant makes mochi from brown rice every morning, and mainly uses organic ingredients for its meals.
Olympic Hanten is a Chinese restaurant popular among locals. Dishes are substantial for their prices.
Where to stay around Horyu-ji
Ukawaya is a ryokan-style inn which boasts that it is the closest inn from Horyu-ji. It’s a small, cozy inn equipped with six guest rooms. Using the bath or having meals without staying overnight is also possible. As for dinner, a course meal called Ikaruga Yume Meguri Gozen will be served.
Kakimotoya is located in a mountainous area rich in nature. Some rooms are equipped with private open-air baths. For dinner, other than traditonal course meals, it can serve dishes such as chicken sukiyaki, beef sukiyaki, and kamo nabe (duck stew).
The design of the building is in a modern Japanese style. It lends colorful yukata robes for women, and you can experience a bath with flower petals.
Grandsunpia Nara is an economy hotel with a steeple which is a 1-minute walk from JR Koriyama Station. It offers French cuisines for dinner, but if you have dinner outside, room rates will be really affordable.