The Kofuku-ji Temple's Five-Story Pagoda dominates the skyline. Built in 1426, it's an exact replica of the original pagoda that Empress Komyo built here in 730, which burned to the ground. At 164 feet, it is the second tallest in Japan, a few centimeters shorter than the pagoda at To-ji Temple in Kyoto. To the southwest of the Five-Story Pagoda, down a flight of steps, is the Three-Story Pagoda. Built in 1114, it is renowned for its graceful lines and fine proportions.
Although the Five-Story Pagoda is Kofuku-ji's most eye-catching building, the main attraction is the first-rate collection of Buddhist statues in the Tokondo (Great Eastern Hall). A reconstruction dating from the 15th century, the hall was built to speed the recovery of the ailing Empress Gensho. It is dominated by a statue of Yakushi Nyorai (Physician of the Soul) and is flanked by the Four Heavenly Kings and the Twelve Heavenly Generals. In contrast to the highly stylized and enlightened Yakushi Nyorai, the
seated figure on the left is a statue of a mortal, Yuima Koji. A lay devotee of Buddhism, Yuima was respected for his eloquence but perhaps more revered for his belief that enlightenment could be accomplished through meditation even while mortal passions were indulged. Although Kofuku-ji Temple is no longer a religious mecca, you may see older Japanese writing on ema (votive plaques) left by pilgrims to ensure the happiness and safety of their families. The exquisite incense and the patina of the gold leaf on the drapery of the Yakushi Nyorai create a reflective experience.
The concrete-and-steel Kokuhokan (National Treasure House), north of Kofuku-ji, houses the largest and most varied collection of National Treasure sculpture and other works of art. The most famous is a statue of Ashura, one of the Buddha's eight protectors, with three heads and six arms.
Kofuku-ji is a 5-minute walk west of Nara Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan in the central part of Nara Koen, and it's an easy 15-minute walk from the JR Station or Kintetsu Nara Station.