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Bike around Ikaruga Town to see other 7th century temples that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Other 7th century temples to see in the area around Horyuji Temple

Though only a small town, Ikaruga is home to Horyuji Temple and three other temples with histories stretching back more than 1,300 years. The town is also dotted with kofun (the ancient grave mounds of powerful families). All this makes the town the perfect place to come into contact with ancient Japanese culture.

Cycling is a very convenient way to get around Ikaruga Town. Bicycles can be rented from tourist information spots near Horyuji Temple. It feels great to zip through the historical town on a bicycle. You’ll begin to get the feeling that you’ve travelled back in time. The temples are surrounded with greenery and you’ll be sure to find lots of places that you’ll want to take pictures of.

One example, is the area called Nishizato to the west of Horyuji Temple, which was originally where the groups of carpenters who worked on Horyuji Temple based themselves. Nishizato still has, in an area roughly 300m2 in size, around 60 unassuming houses with earthen walls and tiled roofs etc. built using old traditional Japanese construction techniques. Many of the vacant lots in the area are planted with cosmos flowers, helping to create a tranquil scene.

Bicycles can be rented at the “Horyuji i Center” tourist information center located near Horyuji Temple.
Earthen walls and tiled roofs. Scenery that remains unchanged and unchanging.

Endearing temples and shrines that play a part in the everyday lives of locals

Near Horyuji Temple there are three temples connected with Prince Shotoku (574 to 622), who ordered the building of Horyuji Temple. Prince Shotoku was a member of the imperial family and a politician, and his likeness has been used on Japanese banknote seven times (more than anyone historical figure). The first of these three temples is Chuguji Temple, located to the east of the main hall Yumedono. Chuguji Temple is said to have been built by Prince Shotoku for his mother.

The temple is home to a statue called Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya), the smile of which is said to be one of the world’s three great mysterious smiles, the other two being the smiles of the Sphinx in Egypt, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

In an area called Mi no Sato about 10 minutes to the north of Horyuji Temple by bicycle, one can find Horinji Temple, which was built in the hope that it could help Prince Shotoku recover from an illness. Travelling a further 800 meters to the east will bring you to Hokkiji Temple, which has Japan’s oldest extant three-storied pagoda. Hokkiji Temple is said to have originally been the site of a palace called Okamoto no Miya, where Prince Shotoku once gave lectures on the Lotus Sutra (one of the most important sutras of the Mahayana branch of Buddhism), and which was later rebuilt as a temple. Hokkiji Temple is registered together with Horyuji Temple as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In autumn large numbers of cosmos flowers bloom all around Hokkiji Temple bringing splashes of color to the area around the temple. The temple, which blends in beautifully with the surrounding townscape, is also a sight to behold when seen from afar.

Cosmos flowers near Hokkiji Temple

If, on the other hand, you cycle about eight minutes to the west of Horyuji Temple you will come to Tatsutagawa River, the banks of which are a famous spot for viewing colorful autumn leaves. On the way to Tatsutagawa River you will pass by Tatsuta Shrine, which enshrines Tatsuta Myojin, a god that informed Prince Shotoku, when he was looking for a site for Horyuji Temple, that Ikaruga would an appropriate place to build it. It is a charming shrine with Tatsuta maple leaf emblems on the offertory box and water ablution pavilion.

If you head approximately 400 meters to the south of Tatsuta Shrine you will find Yoshidaji Temple, which is famous for enabling those who pray there to die suddenly instead of dying after suffering a protracted illness. The temple is enveloped by a bamboo grove, keeping the temple grounds cool, and making it refreshing place to cool off after cycling about town.

Enjoy exploring the neighborhoods in which modernity coexists with tradition.

There are two places that rent out bicycles.
It’s recommended that you set aside a whole day to take in the sights of Ikaruga Town

Bicycles can be rented at the Horyuji i Center, located in Horyuji Temple’s tourist car parking area, and at Nako Rent-a-Cycle, located in front of the Horyuji bus stop. The Horyuji i Center has a wealth of sightseeing materials including information on the various sightseeing spots in the area, and also has foreign-language-speaking sightseeing guides.

Renting bicycles from Nako Rent-a-Cycle is convenient in that you can drop them off at different drop-off points once you have finished with them. If you stroll about Horyuji Temple in the morning and then spend the rest of the day cycling around Ikaruga Town you’re sure to have a fun-filled day. Zipping around Ikaruga Town on a bicycle is a great way enjoy the townscape.

The south gate of Horyuji Temple’s To-in Garan

INFORMATION

A. Horyuji i center | B. Nako Rent-a-Cycle
Time
A. 9:00 - 17:00(reception open until 16:00) | B.9:00 - 17:00
Address
A. 1-8-25 Horyuji, Ikaruga-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara | B. Nearby Horyuji-mae bas stop
Admission
A. Rental fee : 200 Yen within 1 hour / 1,000 Yen a day, 2 days 1,600 Yen | B. 500 Yen within 3 hours / 800 yen a day
Contact
A. +81-(0)745-74-6800 | B. +81-(0)745-74-0047 (direct to Tatsuta taxi)

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