By Jim Swan
Tenri is a small city located just to the south of Nara city and is noted for being the location of the headquarters of Tenri-kyo, an offshoot Buddhist religion. It is also the only city in Japan that is named after a religion. Tenri-kyo originally wanted to call the city Yamabe after where Tenri-kyo was located before the city’s merger in 1954, but it was decided that the city would be called Tenri instead. Tenri has an estimated population of about 69,149 people (October 2010) and is sister city to La Serena in Chile, since 1966, Seosan in South Korea and Bauru in Brazil.
Tenri city is also famous for the Isonokami shrine which is located in the foothills of Tenri. about a 30 minute walk from the station.Another famous temple in Tenri is Chogaku-ji Temple which is said to have been founded in 824 by the founder of the Shingon sect, Kukai (Saint Kobo) (774-835) at the request of Emperor Junna. It belongs to the Koya school of the Shingon sect. Nicknamed "Kamakuchi no Odaishi-san," it is familiar to local people. It holds many precious cultural assets such as the belfry gate and "Honzon Amida Sanzon-zo" (the principal three Buddhist images with the Amida image in the center), Japan's oldest figures with crystal eyes. The compound is well known as a place to view beautiful azalea blossoms. Chogakuji Temple is located on the Yamanobe-no-michi path from Nara to Miwa. The main hall contains a Heian-era image of Amida, the first in Japan to have crystal eyes.
Tenri is also home to Tenri University, where about one third of current students are from Tenri-kyo. Tenri university is well known for its foreign language programs and originally started off as a private language school. Tenri university is also noted for its practice of judo.
Tenri city can be reached from either the Kintetsu line that comes from Yamato Saidaiji via Hirahata, or on the line south from JR Nara station. Tenri also has a long shopping arcade near the station, approximately a mile long, where you can buy many Buddhism related items due to the strong infuence of Tenri-kyo.
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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.