12 Nara's Temples and Shrines Flourishing with Vernal Flowers

Nara, within one hour distance from Kyoto and Osaka by train, is where Japan’s first capital was and is full of temples and shrines with long history. Most of them are located in rural areas or deep in mountains without eye-sores of high-rise buildings but often with beautiful gardens. Why don’t you stretch your leg to give spring colors to your trip?


Things to Do

1. Chugu-ji Temple

Chugu-ji is a convent situated east of Horyu-ji, the world-oldest wooden architecture. The main hall is rebuilt in 1968 but the history dates back to early 7th century around the same time as Horyu-ji. The main attraction is a wooden Buddha statue with elegant smile, a national treasure, but the bright yellow of Yamabuki, Japanese rose, planted in a row around its main building is also enchanting in mid April. The rural area in precincts is a charming place to enjoy relaxing walk year-round.

HP: www.chuguji.jp/ (Japanese Only)

Address: 1-1-2 Horyuji-kita, Ikaruga-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara (Google Map)

2. Gojo Kongo-ji

The temple located in the south of Nara is known as the temple of Botan or peony. 1,000 bushes of peony of 100 varieties bloom in its Botan Garden with an area of 2,000m2 from mid April to early May. Small chrysanthemums in autumn is also beautiful. It takes 25 minute-walk from Gojo station on JR Wakayama Line.

HP: www.e-kongouji.com/ (Japanese Only)

Address: 3-2-14 Nohara-nishi, Gojo-shi, Nara (Google Map)

3. Hannya-ji Temple

The grounds of Hannya-ji, so called the temple of cosmos, is blanketed with tons of the flower of 30 varieties in October. It also entertains visitors with seasonable flowers year-round such as Yamabuki or Japanese rose in April, varieties of hydrangea in June, and narcissus in January. Take a bus from JR or Kintetsu Nara station to Hannya-ji. Bus ride takes about 10 minutes and it takes 3 minute-walk from the bus stop.

HP: www.hannyaji.com/ (Japanese Only)

Address: 221 Hannyaji-cho, Nara-shi, Nara (Google Map)

4. Hase-dera Temple

Known as “temple of flowers” or “temple of peonies,” Hase-dera in Nara is one of the best place to enjoy various flowers all year round- cherry blossoms from late March to mid April, 7,000 peony bushes of 150 varieties from late April to early May, 20,000 hydrangeas from mid June to mid July, and autumn colors. It is located on the hillside and you’d better prepare for day-hike, but the pleasant one. 15 minute-walk from Hasedera Station on Kintetsu Osaka Line.

HP: www.hasedera.or.jp/free/?id=345&PHPSESSID=2epos40m5u66ln3iaret9qndu4

Address: 731-1 Hatsuse, Sakurai-shi, Nara (Google Map)

5. Kasuga Taisha Man'yo Botanical Garden

Man'yo Botanical Garden within the precincts of Kasuga Taisha shrine displays most of plants that appears in Man'yo-shu, the oldest collection of Japanese poetry compiled between late 7th to late 8th century. In addition to tiny graceful flowers, 200 wisterias of 20 varieties which are dedicated to the Fujiwara Clan enshrined features this place. It’s about 25 minute-walk from Nara station on JR or Kintetsu Lines.

HP: www.kasugataisha.or.jp/about/index_en.html

HP: www.kasugataisha.or.jp/about/index_ch-h.html (中文)

Address: 160 kasugano-cho, Nara-shi, Nara (Google Map)

6. Muro-ji Temple

The main attraction of this charming temple spread in the mountainous area is Shakunage or rhododendron starting to bloom from mid April and autumn colors of dense forest surrounding it. Muro-ji, known as Nyonin Koya or women's Mt. Koya, has been open to women while the sacred Mt. Koya used to be closed to women and is popular among women. Take a taxi or a bus from Muroguchi Ono station on Kintetsu Osaka Line.

HP: www.murouji.or.jp/ (Japanese Only)

Address: 78 Muro, Uda-shi, Nara (Google Map)

7. Sekko-jo Temple

Sekko-ji is known for its magnificent collection of peonies. 2,700 peony bushes of about 400 varieties bloom from mid April to early May and 40 varieties of 300 bushes of Kanbotan or winter-peonies from late November to mid January. In addition to gorgeous peonies of wide varieties in color, shape, and form, the precincts become alive with Shakuyaku or herbaceous peony and azaleas in spring. 15 minute-walk from Futakami Jinja-guchi station on Kintetsu Minami-Osaka Line.

HP: sekkouji.or.jp/ (Japanese Only)

Address: 387 Someno, Katsuragi-shi, Nara (Google Map)

8. Tanzan Jinja Shrine

PROSnake Cats/Flickr

Tanzan Jinja located on the foothill, 500m above sea level, is famous for its thirteen-storied wooden tower and stunning view of autumn foliage. Besides that, this place is embraced with breath taking natural beauty year-round such as cherry blossoms in April, hydrangeas from June to July, and fresh green in early summer. It takes 20 minutes by a taxi from Sakurai station on Kintetsu or JR Lines.

HP: www.tanzan.or.jp/eng.html

Address: 319 Tonomine, Sakurai-shi, Nara (Google Map)

9. Taima-dera Temple

Located at the foot of Mt. Futakami, the temple boasts wonderful garden in the precincts of the sub-temple utilizing narrow slope. It becomes lively in spring with hundreds of Shakunage or rhododendron, fresh green of maple, and 1,000 bushes of Botan or peony from mid April to mid May. Satsuki or dwarf azalea and hydrangea from late May to early June give graceful colors to the garden. It takes 15 minute-walk from Taima-dera station on Kintetsu Minami-Osaka Line.

HP: www.taimadera.org/ (Japanese Only)

Address: 1263 Taima, Katsuragi-shi, Nara (Google Map)

10. Tsubosaka-dera Temple

The complex of Tsubosaka-dera is located on the slope of mountain in the north of Mt. Yoshino. The grounds are always beautifully colored starting with cherry blossom in early spring, Yamabuki, azaleas, lavender in early summer and then autumn foliage. Take a bus or a taxi (10 minutes) from Tsubosakayama station on Kintetsu Yoshino Line.

HP: www.tsubosaka1300.or.jp/ (Japanese Only)

Address: 3 Takatori-cho Tsubosaka, Takaichi-gun, Nara (Google Map)

11. Yata-dera Temple

Yata-dera is so called the temple of hydrangeas. With an area of 25,000m2 in mountain, it is covered with about 10,000 bushes of hydrangea of about 60 varieties that start to bloom with grace from mid May. Take bus bound for Yatadera from Koriyama station on Kintetsu Line. Special bus from JR Horyuji station is available in the hydrangea peak period. Please note that tripod and picnic in the precincts are unfortunately prohibited due to troubles in recent years.

HP: www.yatadera.or.jp/ (Japanese Only)

Address: 3549 Yata-cho, Yamatokoriyama-shi, Nara (Google Map)

12. Takidani Hanashobu-en

Precisely speaking, it is not temples nor shrines but had made an approach Muro-ji Temple in the vicinity. 30,000m2 grounds give always fantastic views with variety of flowers- cherry trees, pink moss, irises, and hydrangeas, etc. Walk through wooden bridges crossing over the wetlands is pleasant. If you love flowers and visit Muro-ji for a day-trip, why not try it as well? It’s worth visiting. Entrance fee is 850yen.

HP: www.takidani.net/ (Japanese Only)

Address: 348 Muro Takidani, Uda-shi, Nara (Google Map)

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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