Guideto JapanCulture History
Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region is landlocked and largely mountainous, apart from the Nara Basin in the north. Most people live in this flat northern area, which includes the prefectural capital of Nara and is humid in summer and extremely cold in winter. The Kii Mountains occupy the southern half of the prefecture, including Mount Hakkyō, which is the tallest peak in the Kansai region at 1,914 meters.
Nara Prefecture at a Glance
- Established in 1887 (formerly Yamato province)
- Capital: Nara
- Population: 1,324,000 (as of Oct. 2020)
- Area: 3,691 km2
The city of Nara was the capital of Japan during most of the Nara period (710–94), when the country was greatly influenced by culture imported from China, including Buddhism. Among the major Buddhist sites in the city, the temple of Tōdaiji is famous for its bronze Daibutsu, or Great Buddha, and Hōryūji has some of the world’s oldest surviving wooden buildings. Nara is also known for its wandering wild deer. Further south, Mount Yoshino is Japan’s most celebrated cherry blossom spot.
Capitalizing on its long history, Nara Prefecture is a leader in traditional crafts, such as the production of sumi ink and tea whisks. It is Japan’s number one prefecture for the manufacture of socks and baseball gloves, as well as the breeding of goldfish. Remnants of Yoshino sugi (Japanese cedar) trees are also made into disposable chopsticks, another leading local product.
- Takaichi Sanae (1961–): Liberal Democratic Party politician,who has served as minister of internal affairs and communications and minister of economic security.
- Kawase Naomi (1969–): Director known for films including Sweet Bean and The Mourning Forest, which won the Grand Prix at the 2007 Cannes International Film Festival.
- Murata Ryōta (1986–): Boxer who won the middleweight gold medal at the London Summer Olympics in 2012.
(Originally published in English. Banner photo: The Great Buddha at Tōdaiji in Nara, Nara Prefecture. © Pixta.)
For the complete list of the country’s 47 prefectures, see “The Prefectures of Japan.”