"Nara National Museum: Small but Stunning" Nara Park Tip by AKtravelers
Nara Park, Nara: 30 reviews and 56 photos
The Nara National Museum was cool in several ways. Most importantly, it is air conditioned -- a critical attraction on a humid August afternoon -- Japanese humid where you sweat with every step, no matter how relaxed! But it also has an amazing collection of Buddhist art from the Nara era spanning 14 centuries. Almost every object, grand or small, was labeled a "National Treasure" or "Important Cultural Artifact". Regardless of labels, most of the works were impressive for their age (especiall the 1300-year-old wooden objects) or their evocative beauty. My favorite piece didn't have any of the two labels. It was a wooden carving of a warrior monk from the 13th century -- besides his fiery eyes, he had a clenched right fist but a left hand poised for peace, with two upright fingers offering a buddhist blessing. This oxymoronic work was both startling and beautiful at the same time.
Also interesting is to watch the art as it evolves from a wholesale copy of Tang Chinese and Baekju Korean work into something that is uniquely Japanese. If you don't think you'll notice this evolution yourself (I wouldn't have!) there are signs to help you along.
The collection is not large -- you snake through about 10 rooms in one hour, even when you take time to admire the work -- but it is very chock full of wonderful work.
You are not allowed to take photos in the museum.
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