- 2 min read

Nara Centennial Hall

Nara's answer to the Sydney Opera House

Conveniently located just a short walk from the west exit of JR Nara station is Nara's answer to the Sydney Opera House, Nara Centennial Hall (nara hyaku-nen kaikan・なら100年会館). Its name tells the story: it was built in 1998 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Nara's recognition as a city under the Meiji-era reorganization of political jurisdictions. 

Designed by the internationally renowned architect Arata Isozaki, Centennial Hall encompasses three separate venues --  labeled small, medium, and large; two auditoriums above ground and a general purpose hall underground. The bigger of the two auditoriums can seat over 1,500, with the smaller one seating about 500. The general purpose hall is laid out as a three-room gallery that could probably accommodate displays of about 50 or 60 objects without much difficulty. It's used for meetings, displays, lectures, and even exercise classes.

In contrast to the stark exterior, looking like a gigantic submarine conning tower surfacing through the parking lot, the interior is modern gorgeous, with clean, sweeping lines of elegant glass and steel simplicity. The smaller auditorium is constructed with glass walls and balcony seats along both sides (check out the wordless introductory video on the Japanese home page). It's visually very striking, but it was a great sonic challenge, according to Nagata Acoustics, the consultancy firm that Isozaki used. To compensate for the reflectivity of the glass, Nagata's engineers manipulated virtually every other aspect of the hall -- from the sound absorption qualities of the upholstery and carpeting to the angles of each individual glass panel. As may be expected, the acoustics are superb.

Centennial Hall can accommodate all kinds of performances -- and does, with a robust monthly schedule. You'll find everything from Japanese pops to Japanese traditional, to western classical, and matinee shows especially for young kids. For pre- or post-show refreshment, the hall includes the quiet, elegantly appointed Lai Lai Cafe, with entrances from the outside the building or from inside the lobby.

Travelers staying at the JAL Hotel, the Nikko Silkia, are certainly in luck; the Hall grounds are connected by overhead pedestrian walkway from the hotel's 2nd floor south exit, nearly adjacent to the west exit of the JR station. From either the station or the hotel, three or four minutes’ stroll and you’re there!

Was this article helpful?
Help us improve the site
Give Feedback

Leave a comment

Thank you for your support!

Your feedback has been sent.