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Shomyoji Temple (̖)

Nara Women's University

Himuro Shrine (X_)

Yoshikien Garden g鉀

Isuien Garden ː

Neiraku Art Museum Jyp

Shomyoji Temple (̖)

Shomyoji is famous because the founder of the tea ceremony, Juko Murata, lived there. His tearoom, Shukoan (Dokuroan), the main building, and Jizodo are there. There are also thousand of jizo that are made in the Muromachi period in the graveyard. It was a part of Kofukuji and called Kohokuji. It was founded by three priests, Senei, Rinei and Chonin, as a Jodo Sect temple in 1265. On the second Sunday of May every year, a big tea ceremony is held in commemoration of Juko Murata.

Nara Women's University

Nara Women's Normal College of Higher Education was founded in 1909, the second of its kind. It was founded by the Japanese Government. The cost of the primary school and the nursery school was donated by Nara City, and cost of the girls' high schools was donated by Nara Prefecture. All of those institutions were affiliated, and their buildings were located between the main gate and the main hall. Only the following three buildings still exist.

Main Gate (Important Cultural Property)

There are specially designed gateposts with a lighting apparatus on the top on each end. A pair of doors in the center is attached to the gateposts.

Porter's Lodge (Important Cultural Property)

Behind the main gate on the right side, there is a porter's lodge. The ornamentation on the ridge of the roof and the design of the window resemble those of the main hall.

The Main Hall (Important Cultural Property)

The Memorial Hall is two-story wooden Western-style building. It was completed on October 25, 1909. It has 952 square meters for both floors, and 495 square meters on the first floor.

A lantern tower stands in the center of the peak of the roof. The triangular top of the center of the facade stands higher than the rest of the front. There are six dormer windows on the roof.

The outside walls are constructed in the half-timber style of northern Europe. The walls are covered with timber from the ground to the bottom of the windows on the second floor. The walls above are plastered. Some timbers are attached horizontally and some vertically to give variety of design. Some timbers are attached in a curving pattern.

The carriage porch is the entrance to the building. There are seven rooms on the first floor with a cross halls from the entrance to the back and north to south. They included the president's office, reception, the porter's night room, the guest room, the dining, and meeting room. There are two staircases on the north and south ends of the building. There are halls at the upper end of the staircases. Between the halls, there is a big auditorium. The benches in the auditorium are original ones.

The roof is supported by sixteen-meter long wooden truss without any pillars. The central part of ceiling is raised and a big chandelier hangs there.

Himuro Shrine (X_)

Himuro Shrine is located north side of Noborioji across the National Museum. When the Hejokyo was established, they built a himuro (storage place of ice) in the mountains of the upper stream of the River Yoshiki and enshrined a god there. This is said to be the origin of this shrine and later it was moved to the present place. It enshrines Tsugeinagi Oyamanushinomikoto who invented the method of preserving ice. Ice was precious, and it is said that it was offered to the emperor in 711 for the first time.

Every May 1, Kenpyo Sai (festival to offer ice to a god) is held here. Many people involved in the business of making ice attend this festival. They offer big chunks of ice, some of which have flowers in them, and they also offer carp as the product of the land and tai (precious sea fish) as product of the sea. They are offered in big pieces of ice.

The ceremony starts at 11 o'clock and lasts for about one hour. They offer bugaku (dancing) and the dancer wears a mask "Ryuo" which is an important cultural property.

In the afternoon from 2 o'clock, they offer more dancing.

Yoshikien Garden g鉀

Yoshikien Garden is located on the south side of Isuien Garden and the west side of Himuro Shrine. According to the Kofukuji Ko-Ezu (old map of Kofukuji Temple), Yokienen Garden was the site of the Manishuin, where high priests resided. It was privately owned during the Meiji Era (1868-1912). The current gardens and buildings were completed in 1919, and then Nara Prefectural Government acquired them and opened them to the public on April 1, 1989. The garden is open from April to June and from August to December, and the tearoom, except July and around the New Year.

There are three gardens, Pond Garden, Cedar Moss Garden, and Tea-Ceremonial Flowers Garden. You can enjoy a view of Pond Garden from the azumaya (viewing spot with seats under the roof) on the top of the hill. You can also walk around the pond. In front of the tearoom, there is a large, narrow cedar moss garden, and you can walk around it or inside it. There are many kinds of flowers and plants used for the tea ceremony in the Tea-Ceremonial Flowers Garden. Yoshikien is particularly beautiful when there is fresh greenery in the spring and colored leaves in the fall.

Isuien Garden ː

Isuien Garden is located to the west of the Nandaimon Gate (south gate) of Todaiji Temple and to the north of Yoshikien along the Yoshiki River. The garden is representative of the garden design of the Meiji period and was designated by the government as a scenic spot in 1975.

Isuien covers 13,481 square meters, and it actually has two gardens. The front garden is to the west of the entrance and the back garden, to the east. Two gardens are promenade-type gardens, but each has its unique characteristics.

The front garden was a part of a branch temple of Manishuin of Kofukuji Temple, according to an old record of Nara. During the Empo period (1670s), Mr. Michikiyo Kiyosumi, who was an influential resident of Nara, modified the layout of the garden and built a thatched-roof house, which was named Sanshutei by Mokuan Zenji, a distinguished priest of Obaku Sect of Buddhism in Uji. Important spots to see here are of course Sanshutei, an island that represents a crane and a turtle, and lanterns. These are typical of the Edo period gardens.

The back garden was made by Mr. Tojiro Seki, a prosperous merchant of Nara. It has a "borrowed scene" of Mt. Wakasayama, Mt. Kasugaokuyama, and Mt. Mikasayama from the left to right with the tile-roofed Nandaimon Gate. There are a building, a tea room and Yagyudo, which was moved from Hotokuji in Yagyu. The best characteristic of this garden is a wide view of the three mountains beyond the pond, which a visitor sees after passing though a narrow passage.

Isuien Garden was purchased by Jyunsaku Nakamura, who was a merchant in Kobe. He had an art collection, and he founded the Neiraku Art Museum. He wanted to have good atmosphere in which to display art, and he obtained this garden, which was a revolutionary idea then.

Neiraku Art Museum Jyp

This museum owns a collection of more than 2,000 art items collected by Junsaku Nakamura, who is the founder of the museum. These were fortunately not destroyed during World War II, though the large portion were. They include bronze wares, seals and mirrors of ancient China and pottery of Korea. The building was designed by Kenzo Higashihata. The tiled roof represents a thatched Yamato Roof, which is unique. The exhibit is changed annually in July. There are special exhibits at the beginning of March, when Omizutori is held, and from the end of October to the mid of November, when there is a special exhibit of Shosoin.


Shimazu, M. (Ed.). (1990). Nara. Tokyo. JTB. (in Japanese)

Kitamura S. (1986). Full-day's Excursion to Nara, The Repository of Old Cultural Assets. Nara: Nara YMCA.

copyright (2003) S. Kathleen Kitao and Kenji Kitao

Note: This work was partially funded by the Doshisha University Computer Research Fund, 2002.

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Copyright (2004) by Kenji Kitao