Kofuku-ji Temple, Nara
Panorama of Kofuku-ji temple in Nara, Japan. It is one of the eight Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara, which is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is also the headquarters of the Hosso school of Buddhism.
In this panorama you can see the East Golden Hall (Tokon-do) built in 1425. Just to the south of the hall is the Five-storied pagoda (Goju-no-to), which was built in 1426 and is listed as a National Treasure of Japan. To the west is a large area where the Central Golden Hall (Chukon-do) is being reconstructed.
The temple was originally founded in 669 by the wife of Fujiwara no Kamatari, in Kyoto (at the time called Yamashina). It was then moved to Fujiwara-kyō in 672 and moved again to its present location in 710. Since then the buildings have been destroyed by fire and rebuilt many times.
However, not all of the important buildings have been reconstructed. Of the three golden halls there is only one currently rebuilt, while another is still under construction. The nandaimon, chumon, and corridor have not been reconstructed, and are currently missing from the temple.
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The eight islands of Japan sprang into existence through Divine Intervention.
The first two gods who came into existence were Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto, the Exalted Male and Exalted Female. It was their job to make the land for people to live on.
They went to the bridge between heaven and earth and, using a jewel-encrusted halberd, Izanagi and Izanami churned up the sea into a frothy foam. As salty drips of water fell from the tip of the halberd the first island was formed. Its name was Onogoro.
So far, so good. But when Izanagi and Izanami first met on their island, Izanami spoke to Isanagi without being spoken to first. Since she was the female, and this was improper, their first union created badly-formed offspring who were sent off into the sea in boats.
The next time they met, Izanagi was sure to speak first, ensuring the proper rules were followed, and this time they produced eight children, which became the islands of Japan.
I'm sure you did not fail to miss the significance of this myth for the establishment of Japanese formal society.
At present, Japan is the financial capital of Asia. It has the second largest economy in the world and the largest metropolitan area (Tokyo.)
Technically there are three thousand islands making up the Japanese archipelago. Izanagi and Izanami must have been busy little devils with their jewelled halberd...
Japan's culture is highly technical and organized. Everything sparkles and swooshes on silent, miniaturized mechanisms.
They're a world leader in robotics, and the Japanese have the longest life-expectancy on earth.
Text by Steve Smith.