Japan Museums & Galleries: Nara National Museum
Nara National Museum 奈良国立博物館
The Nara National Museum is located in the Nara Park area of central Nara close to many of the city's main tourist attractions: Kofukuji, Todaiji, Isuien Garden, Kasuga Taisha Shrine and the Nara Hotel.
Nara National Museum is home primarily to works of art and archaeological artifacts related to Buddhist art, Nara's ancient arts and crafts and other historical exhibits from mostly the Asuka, Nara, Heian and Kamakura periods of Japanese history. Nara National Museum has the most complete collection of Buddhist sculptures in Japan.
The original Meiji Period western style building was designed by architect Katayama Tokuma, who was also responsible for the Kyoto National Museum and the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo. The brick building is a fine example of French Renaissance style in the Japanese context and hosts the Masterpieces of Buddhist Sculptures from the permanent collection.
New East & West wings were opened in 1973, designed by Junzo Yoshimura. These buildings are connected by underground passage with the original building. The West Wing houses the permanent collection of archeological artifacts, decorative arts, paintings and written materials. The East Wing holds the museum's special exhibitions.
Nara National Museum's collection includes many Buddhist statues, scrolls, paintings, sutras, calligraphy, mandalas, masks and ritual implements from Nara's many temples and shrines. Treasures from the Shosoin repository at Todaiji are exhibited every year in a popular exhibition in the autumn held in the East Wing.
The Sakamoto Collection of ancient Chinese bronzes are displayed in an annex of the original museum building.
The exhibits have explanations written in both Japanese and English.
National Treasures on display at Nara National Museum include a copy of the Nihon Shoki from the Heian Period, a seated image of Yakushi, the Buddha of Healing, also from the Heian Period, writings by the priests Saicho and Kukai and a sutra box from the Heian Period made from lacquered hide.
The wooden Buddhist Art Library is open on Wednesdays and Fridays and is a reference library relating to Buddhist art.
The grounds of Nara National Museum contain the Hassoan tea ceremony house, built in the Edo Period, at Daijo-in, a sub-temple of Kofuku-ji Temple. The tea house has four tatami mats and a tokonoma alcove.
The underground passage of the museum contains the museum shop and a restaurant.
The Nara National Museum has extended hours to 7pm on Fridays from the end of April to the end of October and at other times during the year. Please see the website of the museum above for full details.
Admission: 520 yen
Tel: 050 5542 8600
Nara National Museum is a 15 minute walk east from Kintetsu Nara Station. The most convenient Nara bus for the Nara National Museum is the #2 Loop bus from either JR Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station. Get off at the Himuro Jinja & Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan bus stop. Buses #70, #72, #97, and #160 also stop at this stop.
There are four National Museums in Japan: Tokyo National Museum, Kyoto National Museum, Nara National Museum, which were all built at the end of the 19th century and Kyushu National Museum in Dazaifu in Fukuoka Prefecture that was constructed in the early 21st century.