Kofukuji National Treasure Museum 興福寺国宝館
The Kofukuji National Treasure Museum (Kokuhoukan) is located within Kofukuji Temple in the Nara Park area of central Nara. Kofukuji is close to many of the city's main tourist attractions: Todaiji, Isuien Garden, Kasuga Taisha Shrine and the Nara Hotel.
Kofukuji National Treasure Museum was built in concrete in 1959 to provide a safe home for the various Buddhist works of art belonging to Kofukuji Temple from the Asuka, Nara, Heian, Kamakura, Muromachi, Momoyama and Edo periods of Japanese history. Many of these priceless pieces are designated National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties. They include Buddhist statues, artifacts, books, gilt bronze lanterns, historical documents, paintings, temple bells and ritual implements.
The museum was remodeled in 2010 and with the use of LED lighting, many of the statues can now be viewed without glass cases. The atmosphere so created is one of wonderful beauty and serenity.
The Kofukuji National Treasure Museum is located on the site of the temple's dining room which was destroyed during the anti-Buddhist upheavals of the haibutsu kishaku movement in the early Meiji Period.
Standouts of the works on display include a huge, Kamakura era statue of a Thousand Armed Kannon (Avalokitesvara), a standing dry-lacquer figure of a three-faced, six-armed Ashura (one of the Buddha's eight protectors) and the bronze head of Yakushi Nyorai (the Healing Buddha).
Other superb statues include a wooden group of the Juni Shinsho (Twelve Divine Generals) from the Heian Period and two standing Nio (Kongo and Misshaku) attributed to Jokei, a master sculptor of the Kamakura Period.
Other famous ancient sculptors whose work can be seen at the museum are the father and son team of Kokei and Unkei.
The exhibits have explanations written in both Japanese and English. The museum hosts a special exhibition that changes three times a year.
Tel: 0742 22 5370
Hours: 9am-5pm though the grounds are open around the clock.
No photography is allowed within the museum. A small gift shop sells books and post cards within the building as you exit.
Admission 600 yen for adults to the National Treasure Museum; 300 yen for the Eastern Golden Hall (800 yen combined ticket).
To get to Kofukuji Temple take a yellow Nara City Loop Line Bus #2 from JR Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station, though it is only one stop from Kintetsu Nara Station. Get off at Kencho-mae. Buses #70, #72, #97, #160, #50, #51, #53, #82 and #92 all stop at Kencho-mae.