Kyoto-Nara Maglev Battle Underway for Future Route

By the middle of the century, if all goes according to plan, a maglev shinkansen will be in operation between Tokyo and Osaka, reducing a 100-minute trip to just over an hour.As with the current bullet train lines, stations will be built in cities along the way.

But where the train will stop between Nagoya and Osaka has become the subject of a growing struggle between the cities of Kyoto and Nara, both of which see a maglev station as a critical way to boost tourism revenue, not to mention a matter of prestige.

Officially, Nara has the upper hand. Plans to route the new maglev line through the city date as far back as 1973, when the government officially declared it would build a station “in the vicinity.”

Read the rest of the story: Economy, prestige at stake in Kyoto-Nara maglev battle.

Yakushiji’s World Heritage Pagoda open for first time in 1,300 years

The three-layer east pagoda of Yakushiji, a Buddhist temple listed as a World Heritage site in Japan’s ancient capital of Nara, was opened to the public Tuesday for the first time since it was built some 1,300 years ago.

The national treasure pagoda in western Japan, often described as "frozen music" for its rhythmical appearance and beauty, will be open to general visitors through March 21 ahead of its major renovation around this summer.

The East Tower (東塔 Tō-tō?) is the only original 8th-century structure at Yakushi-ji. It is regarded as one of the finest pagodas in Japan, representing Hakuhō to Tenpyō period architecture.

During the renovation, which is expected to take eight years, visitors will not even be able to view the exterior of the tower.

A walkway and lighting was installed inside the first floor of the tower for the public viewing.

Read the rest of the story: Yakushiji’s nat’l treasure pagoda open for 1st time in 1,300 years.

Nara holds ceremony marking the ancient capital’s 1,300th anniversary

A ceremony was held Friday in Nara to mark the 1,300th anniversary of the move of Japan’s capital to Heijo-kyo, where it remained for much of the eighth century, with both Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in attendance.

About 1,700 guests, including representatives of nearly 50 foreign governments, gathered outside the restored Daigokuden palace on the site of the former capital, as dancers dressed in uniforms of military and civilian officers of the period and court ladies welcomed them with ancient music inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty.

Read the rest of the story: Nara fetes ancient capital’s 1,300th anniversary | The Japan Times Online.

Nara temple may be world’s oldest wooden structure

A Zen Buddhist hall in Nara is the oldest wooden structure still in use and a century older than famed Horyuji temple previously thought to hold the crown, according to an expert in tree-ring dating.

Research by Takumi Mitsutani, a visiting professor of dendrochronology at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto, reveals that Japanese cypress wood in the roof of the Zenshitsu (zen room) building of Gangoji temple was logged around 586.

Mitsutani argues that his findings indicate that the structure of the hall was made 100 years before Horyuji temple in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, hitherto thought the world’s oldest, which was built between the late seventh and eighth centuries.

Gangoji, formerly Asukadera temple in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, is thought to have been relocated to Nara after the city became Japan’s capital in 710. It had previously been thought that it was newly built in the new location from about 718, but Mitsutani says his research indicates the structure of the Zenshitsu was brought from the Asuka site.

Read the rest of the story: Nara temple may be world’s oldest wooden structure.

Daigokuden- a reconstruction of an imperial hall in Nara – to be opened to the public soon

A reconstruction of an imperial hall, Daigokuden, which once served as the emperor’s office and a venue for imperial ceremonies will open to the public April 24th as part of the main venue for a festival marking the 1,300th anniversary of the establishment of the ancient capital of Heijokyo.

Heijō-kyō (平城京, also Heizei-kyō, sometimes Nara no miyako), was the capital city of Japan (710-740 and 745-784) during most of the Nara period (710-794). The Palace site is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site together with other places in the city of Nara.

The Agency for Cultural Affairs rebuilt Daigokuden, the largest building of the eighth-century Heijokyu palace, at a cost of 18 billion yen ($191.8 million).

During the festival period, the hall is expected to be illuminated at night.