Akishino Temple is one of the smaller but no less famous temples in the central Nara area. The temple is a 20 minute walk northwest of Saidaiji temple and Yamato Saidaiji station. Founded in 780 AD shortly before the royal court left Nara, the main temple is faithful to the original and had many fine statues. Open from 9:30am to 4:30pm, it is enclosed within a grove of trees and bamboo and the stroll along the access path to the temple is quite beautiful. The most well-known Buddhist statue among the 25 in the main hall is the standing statue of Gigeiten, the patron god of the arts, who is venerated by many artists. The sculpture of Gigeiten, a female deity, has a dry lacquer head of the Nara period joined to wooden body carved in the Kamakura Period. Its head was made in the 8th century and the body was made in the 13th century. It is roughly 2m in height and has been designated one of Japan's Important Cultural Properties.
Akishino-dera was built around 780 at the request of Emperor Konin. It lost most of its buildings to fire during wars in the 12th century, and the present main hall had to be rebuilt in the 13th century. There is a wooded area in the grounds that stretches from the south gate, and the velvety moss-covered garden is tranquil, and beautifully arranged. Entry to the temple grounds costs about 500 yen but unfortunately they did not have any literature in English nor any English speakers. It's possible to walk around the temple grounds and enjoy the serene and quiet atmosphere, allowing you to wonder what it must have been like 1300 years ago when it was a major place of worship.
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I'm 49 years young and come from Auckland, New Zealand. I have now lived in Japan about 25 years, almost the entire time has been spent in the Kansai area. I originally lived in Takamatsu, Kagawa prefecture in 1987 and then moved to Osaka. Spending a few years in Osaka and when I married I moved to South Kyoto/Nara. I have been teaching English at several universities for a few years and since 2007 have been living in Nara. I realised after living here a while that I didn't really know much about the area I have been living in. My usual routine was to go in a straight line between home and work, and a beer on the way home. I have found some great little drinking spots and bars in my travels. Getting involved with Japan Tourist it has offered me the opportunity to go out and explore my neigborhood and to share my adventures as someone who has made Japan my home for 25 years. I hope that through Japan Tourist people will come to see the real Japan and learn a little more about the Nara I have come to know that you won't really learn about in guide books.