Despite the tourist popularity of Kyoto, Japan's first capital was founded in Nara, and Japan is celebrating the 1300th anniversary of its founding this year, taking visitors back in time to centuries ago. Along with World Heritage sites such as the large Buddha statue and the world's oldest remaining wooden structure, this year's commemoration remembers significant cultural influences Japan received and its ancient cultural foundations.
Nara's key landmark is the Heijokyo Palace, symbolized by its remarkable red-roofed Suzaku-mon Gate. From April 24 through November 7, 2010, the Palace exhibits the early history and the founding process of Nara as Japan's capital, as well as the life and culture of the era. Heijokyo Palace will appear dignified with many LED lights and candles from August 20 through 27.
Nara's design was based upon ancient Chinese elements, including colorful mandalas, the circular, ancient Buddhist depiction of the universe, which differentiates Nara from Zen-colored Kyoto. Nara is also a living museum for Buddhist art fans: The city is home to numerous ancient Buddhist statues, prayer scrolls and paintings, housed in the over 1000-year-old wooden temple structures. This anniversary year introduces the unique, historic elements of Nara as well as UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage sites, such as Horyu-ji Temple, the world's oldest remaining wooden structure from the 7th century.
For complete anniversary information, go to http://www.1300.jp/foreign/english/index.html.