The World Heritage sites of ancient Nara, once known as Heijo-kyo, are conveniently located within walking distance of Nara Station. After Japan’s imperial capital was moved to Heijo-kyo in 710, it became the center of politics and culture, including a new cultural and artistic movement called Tenpyo that was influenced by exposure to China and other countries. Home to the Emperor, Heijo-kyo is also said to have been the workplace for about 7,000 noblemen and officials. Suzakumon Gate, the palace’s symbol; the First Daigokuden or Imperial Audience Hall, which hosted foreign dignitaries and important state functions; and the East Palace Garden with its pond have all been returned to their former glory through restoration work, and opened to the public.
The palace grounds also contain the Heijo Palace Site Museum, where excavated earthenware and roof tiles as well as architectural models and dioramas of the excavation are on display. At the Excavation Site Exhibition Hall, visitors can view remains left in their exact state at the time of excavation. The Information Center for Reconstruction Project of the Former Imperial Audience Hall Compound uses CGI and reference materials to explain the reconstruction efforts. Opportunities to learn all about the ancient ruins abound.
Meanwhile, work is underway on the Suzakumon Plaza to make it into a fitting main entrance to the Heijo Palace complex. The plaza will open as Heijo Palace Historical Park in March of 2018. Centered on Suzaku Avenue, the west side will contain a transport terminal, restaurants, cafes, shops, places to rest, and an observation area. Visitors will be able to relax and enjoy the feeling of traveling back in time to the Nara period.