In 1998, eight components of Ancient Nara’s historic
monuments were inscribed on the World Heritage list as
cultural sites. This includes five temples (Tôdai-ji, Kôfuku-
ji, Yakushi-ji, Gangô-ji, Tôshôdai-ji), one Shinto shrine
(Kasuga-Taisha), an archeological site (Nara Palace),
and a cultural landscape (Kasugayama Primeval Forest).
These sites represented an exceptional change in
Japanese history during the 8th century. They exhibit a
great development in the cultural and political nature of
Japan, during which Nara prospered as Japan’s capital
from 710 to 784. From the cultural links with China and
Korea to the flourishing practice of Buddhism and
Shintoism, the historic monuments of Nara display an
evolution of Japanese culture in both architecture and art.
The surviving layout and architecture of Nara’s historic monuments show a profound influence on cities that were later developed, as well as the flowering of Japanese culture. These sites are also excellent examples of architecture during the planning of an early Asian capital city. Nara’s Buddhist Temples and Shrines exemplify the continuing influence of spiritual power and religion in Japan. Its cultural landscape is harmonious with the city’s Shinto Shrines and its worship. Finally, Nara Palace (Heijô-kyô) was the center of political and religious ceremonies, the imperial residence of its time, and overall, held an excellent architectural layout. These places vividly paint a picture of life and religion in the Japanese capital during the 8th century, a turning point in Japanese history.