Ikoma and Heguri

The northwestern edge of Nara

Among 1,800 temples stand in Nara Prefecture, Todaiji is undoubtedly the most famous of all. Its main attraction is the Great Vairochana Buddha statue resting in the Great Buddha Hall; one of the biggest wooden architecture of the world. However, Nigatsu-do Hall is another well known spot not because of its secret eleven-faced Kannon Bodhisattva statue but an annual Shuni-e event which takes place during the first half of March as a herald of spring. The hall also offers exquisite view of Nara Basin. The corridor where pine torches are set alight in the evening of the event turns into observation platform from which visitors enjoy the scenery with the Great Buddha Hall in the foreground and a gentle ridge of a mountain in the distant view. The mountain is called Ikoma which separates Nara from Osaka.

Mt. Ikoma is a mountain ridge that extends for some 35 kilometers north-south between a hilly terrain of Yawata city in Kyoto and the north bank of Yamato River in Nara. Each side of the mountain vary in its shape: a steep incline and gentle slope. Down the south part of the gentler eastern hillside, there is a valley with the same name as Ikoma and it is where religious and worldly spots introduced on this website reside.

The area is divided into two different administrative wards, Heguri Town and Ikoma City. While Heguri is a small town which still keeps rustic atmosphere regarding agriculture as its main industry, Ikoma is more populated and dotted with modern estates. Ikoma, however, used to be an aggregate of small villages based on agriculture with cottage industries such as chasen tea whisks which has been dominant in its production since the 15th century.

There are many worthy visiting spots in this area, each of which inscribes culture and history of Japan through its own expressions. This website introduces some of them that often lie to quiet undulated land along the valley or at the hillside. Articles include Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, cultural facilities and some foods. Japanese culture has been strongly nurtured by religious attitudes and teachings which offer law and moral references to the society and an individual alike. However, such scenery has often more explicitly been preserved in local areas which elaborate Japan’s traditional customs as still a part of the people’s life. The areas thus inscribe the trail of culture and history of the nation in the intimate and quiet rural atmosphere.

Both Heguri Town and Ikoma City are conveniently located as midway between Osaka and Nara but are relatively unknown for especially those who live in the distance. Following Nara Basin, weather of the region is generally mild but often very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter nevertheless not snowy. As the altitude increases, however, the temperature goes down and occasionally misty especially in the rainy day.

The picture above shows a row of koi-nobori, literally a carp ascending. These streamers cerebrate the Boy’s Festival on the fifth of May. On this day, celebrating boy’s growing up, not only families do set out dolls patterned after warriors but also fly carp streamers. Because the carps have the strength to swim even up waterfalls, they are often taken as symbols of success in life. They will be seen along the Tatsuta river in Heguri Town roughly from the mid April. Such scenery used to be found elsewhere in Japan, but it’s getting rare nowadays.

Faith: This page provides the basic information about some of the most popular Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in this area. Shinto is Japan’s indigenous religion which has deeply been established as a template of the nation.

 

Park: There are enjoyable and memorable spots in this area other than old temples and shrines. Those include an amusement park, a bamboo garden, a multipurpose park with camping sites.

 

Food: This page is about sake breweries and restaurants mostly in Ikoma. The article introduces local breweries abstracting the history and brewing processes of refined sake.

Guided tours are provided by Kenichi Nakatsu who is an official tourist guide interpreter of Nara Prefecture. Living in the north western edge of Nara, Kenichi works as a guide to introduce relatively unknown along with the famous spots of this insightful region of Japan. Special tours will be made according to the request. For more information and queries, please contact Kenichi Nakatsu.

This website is created and maintained by Kenichi Nakatsu.

  • No part of this website may be copied, reproduced, saved or reused.
  • All photographs are taken by the author unless otherwise stated.
  • Information in this website may be out of date and will be renewed without further notice.
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