Attraction 1 Chome-1-5 Saidaiji Shibacho Nara, Nara Prefecture 631-0825 Japan Published on: 29-06-2016
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Why Saidaiji Temple is special ?
Saidaiji Temple is one of Nara's 7 great temples. This temple was built on the western side of Heijo-kyo (Japan's capital during the Nara Period (710 - 794)) as a counterpart to the Todaiji (Great Eastern Temple) which is a symbol of Nara. It was founded in 765 to pray for peace, and has one of the Buddhist Four Heavenly Kings. It was originally a magnificent temple on a 48 hectare site with over 100 buildings and towers. But its size shrunk with many disasters such as fires. Most of its current buildings were rebuilt in later eras. It is visited by many pilgrims, and boasts a high status.
Saidaiji Temple has strict discipline, and drinking alcohol is prohibited. So instead of "sake parties," they held "tea parties," with banquets while drinking Japanese tea. That tradition has been handed down, and today tea is served to pilgrims in the "Great Tea Ceremony." But this is very different from a normal tea party. It is hard to lift the 40cm diameter tea cups which weigh 7kg. Some pilgrims even need help from people nearby to lift them to their mouths to drink tea, for a tea party surrounded by friendly laughing. Tea party ceremonies are held 3 times in the January, spring and fall. It is a seasonal tradition of Saidaiji Temple.
What to explore at Saidaiji Temple?
ocated close to the busy Yamato-Saidaiji station, Saidaiji temple has a very quiet atmosphere once inside the temple walls. Located close to the busy Yamato Saidaiji station it is but a short three-minute walk from the station. As you approach the entrance, the massive walls surrounding the temple complex rises up before you and gives you an idea of its immense size. You first enter the car park, which on weekends will be crammed with up to 200 cars, and be careful of the tour buses that navigate the surrounding one-lane streets. Entry to the temple grounds are free but as mentioned, an admission fee is required to enter some of the buildings. You can buy tickets to enter individual buildings but you should buy a concession ticket, where for one price you can enter all four of the buildings using one ticket. To get a bird’s eye view of the Temple you can visit this site and see various paintings drawn of Saidaiji Temple.
Saidaiji Temple is also famous for its tea ceremony where for a small charge you can drink tea from a large tea bowl. You will probably need the assistance of people sitting next to you in order to hold the bowl which is 30 cm in diameter. As well as green tea (matcha) an explanation of the ceremony is provided as well as some traditional confectionery, usually Japanese sweets (wagashi). The tea ceremony has been practiced since 1239 A.D. and the surroundings offer a harmonious and serene atmosphere. It is a unique experience that one should participate in if given the chance. Prior reservations are required for the tea ceremony and it costs at least 1,000 yen. At least one hour is required for taking part. Up to thirty people can participate at one time can be accommodated in the tea hall but ceremonies for individuals are not possible.
How to get to Saidaiji Temple?
3 minute walk from Yamato Saidaiji Station on the Kintetsu Nara Line (50 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station)
- A Quiet Temple Near Nara
- One of Nara's 7 great temples
- A symbol of Nara.
- Tea ceremony
- Good place for walking around and relaxing
1 Chome-1-5 Saidaiji Shibacho Nara, Nara Prefecture 631-0825 Japan
Tips for you
Saidaiji temple is a quiet temple close to Nara. Take the Kintetsu Nara line a couple of stops or the bus from the Nara JR station (see the information map available at the Nara Kintetsu station). The temple is a short walk from Saidaiji station. You can buy some delicious, freshly made rice balls (onigiri) in the Saidaiji station or shop for all kinds of Japanese food in the station arcade. There are a couple of nice restaurants in the arcade including one with a viewing deck of the trains coming and going (excellent for railway buffs). On the way to the temple you will pass the little cake shop called Gateau Des Bois serving delicious cakes by an awarding winning patisserie - the coffee is excellent too, and served exquisitely. The temple and its grounds are interesting (though not fantastic), but the Buddhist images and art in the temple and the adjacent hall are quite beautiful. No photography is allowed inside the buildings. A visit to Saidaiji could be combined with one to nearby (1 km) Akishinodera (bus from Saidaiji station) which is surrounded by a small forest with beautiful moss ground cover. Also a small temple with some beautiful images inside. If you are looking for a side trip from Nara that is off the beaten path, I am sure you will enjoy a visit to Saidaiji. As another reviewer said these temples are "not famous" but they are pretty, secluded and uncrowded.