I made the pilgrimage to Nara, the ancient capital of Japan that precedes Kyoto. The “capital” in Japan is defined as where the emperor lives. Prior to Kyoto, the capital always moved when the emperor died because it was taboo to rule from the place where the previous ruler died. This tradition extinguished upon the ascendancy of the Kyoto capital.
Nara is just south of Kyoto Prefecture, about an hour or so train ride. It has a nice mellow vibe to it and is full of great visuals. While it was only the capital for 84 years (from 710 to 794), a significant number of impressive temples and shrines were constructed. Many are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The premium attraction in Nara is Todai-ji Temple, famous for the massive Vairocana Buddha statue popularly known as Daibutsu (Great Buddha). founded in the 8th century, The Daibutsuden Hall which houses the statue was burned down twice in fires that broke out as a result of war. The present structure, which was rebuilt in 1709, was scaled down to 2/3rds of the original size. Nevertheless, it is the largest wooden structure on earth. Here it is.
Fantastic woodcarving is presented throughout this hall.