Heijo Palace – Ancient Seat of Power in Nara
Heijo Palace in Nara is a window into Japan's past that is not to be missed. We've got all the vital info you're going to need to make the most of it.
Nara is a popular tourist destination, with crowds drawn by the (in)famous free-roaming deer, as well as famous temples and shrines such as Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha. It was Japan’s first official capital and thus home to the seat of power – the Imperial Palace.
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About Heijo Palace
From 710 to 794 BCE Japan was in what we now call the Nara Period, named after the city of Nara. Nara was formerly known as Heijo-kyo and its palace, the eponymously named Heijo Palace, served as the official residence of the emperor. The palace includes wide, sweeping grounds; several buildings, including audience halls, the imperial living quarters and ministerial offices; a park and a garden. Due to its enormous historical and cultural importance, it has been deemed by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee as a World Heritage Site.
The palace and grounds were constructed according to Chinese geomantic principles (especially characteristic is the grid-shaped street network that weaves through the entire city) and occupies around 120 hectares.
In 784 BCE, Japan’s capital was moved to Heian-kyo (Kyoto) and Heijo was left to crumble. Excavation and restoration of the ancient capital’s palace started in the late 19th century and has continued into the present, spurred on by a renewed interest in the lost cultural artifacts of Japan’s past. The excavation status and discoveries, along with artifacts and detailed historical information, can be viewed at the on-site exhibition.
Further Info and Events
Understandably, there are quite a few historical events and festivals that celebrate this rich heritage site. Some of the most famous are the annual Heijo Tenpyo Festivals (usually three of them), which involve realistic reenactments and costumes to temporarily revive the look and feel of Heijo-kyo at its resplendent peak.
If you wish to visit a nearby temple, Hokkeji is a great choice for its proximity to Heijo Palace. Build in the same period as the palace, it is a wonderfully quiet and serene temple with some gardens and several buildings for you to explore.
There are several small shrines and temples close by as well, making finding a nice place for some peace and quiet around the palace grounds quite easy.
Tue – Sun 9.00am – 4.30pm (last entry 4.00pm)
closed for New Year (12/29 – 01/03)
Visitors should take at least half a day to check out all the sites and museums available. It can easily be turned into a full-day excursion, if an event is to be attended or the nearby Nara Park is also included in the trip.
Heijo Palace grounds, excavation exhibition and museums: free (passport required).
Take the Kintetsu Line to Yamato-Saidaiji Station, aim for the north exit and walk around 15 minutes from there to reach to the palace grounds’ main entrance.