Kasuga Taisha (春日大社) is Nara’s (奈良) most important and appreciated Shinto shrine. As with many of Nara’s main attractions, it lies in Nara Park, towards the east. People established Kasuga Taisha at around the same time when Nara became Japan’s (日本) first capital, which was in the 7th century. Just like aforementioned Kofukuji Temple, Kasuga Taisha belonged to the Fujiwara clan, who was one of the most powerful families at the time.
During this time of Japanese history it was common to rebuild Shinto shrines in regular periods of about 20 years. In the Edo Period however (17th century), this practice was discontinued. Today’s version is therefore from around that time.
Kasuga Taisha is famous for its many lanterns that are placed around the shrine buildings, each being donated by worshippers. The ones in immediate vicinity are made of bronze while the ones leading up to the shrine are mostly stone lanterns.
Besides Kasuga Taisha, there are many smaller shrines around the premises that stand for other Shinto deities, such as the one for love and marriage. Kasuga Taisha itself represents the deity of divine protection.
Kasuga Taisha Shrine Grounds
The outer area of the shrine is free for everyone to visit and offers basic insight into the shrine’s buildings. The inner area and adjacent buildings are paid-to-enter (more on that below). Kasuga Taisha Museum is one of said buildings, displaying a wide collection of ancient relics and art from long ago.
Other than that there is a beautiful botanical garden in which you can admire over 200 kinds of plants. The wisteria flower is the most prominent here, typically blooming in April and May. Many of the plants in this garden are mentioned in poetry and other art from the Nara Period (710-794).
Surrounding the shrine grounds is of course Nara Park and a large Primeval Forest, which is unfortunately not open to the public.
Opening Hours & Admission Fees
I will list the specific hours and fees for each building or area mentioned above:
- Free outer area: 6:00 – 18:00 (April to September)
6:30 – 17:00 (October to March)
- Inner paid area: 8:30 – 16:00
- There are no closing days for either area
- Admission fee for the inner area is 500 Yen (4,10€/$4.59; exchange rates as of June 2019)
- Kasuga Taisha Museum: 10:00 – 17:00 (last entry 16:30)
- Closed in-between exhibits
- Admission fee is 500 Yen
- Botanical Garden: 9:00 – 17:00 (until 16:30 from December to February)
- Closed every Monday from December to February (Tuesday if Monday is a holiday)
- Admission fee is 500 Yen
How to get to Kasuga Taisha
Kasuga Taisha lies Eastern Nara Park and you can reach it after a nice pleasant walk through the park.
For ambitious walkers, I recommend taking either the 30-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station or the 45-minute walk from JR Nara Station to get to Kasuga Taisha. You can stop at many other cool sights along the way.
Alternatively, you can take busses from either station that regularly leave for that direction. The bus stop that you need to get off at is called Kasuga Taisha Honden bus stop. The trip costs 210 Yen (1,72€/$1.93) and takes about 25-30 minutes.
Kasuga Taisha is Nara’s most important and impressive shrine. You can either enjoy it for free if you’re fine with just seeing the outer area or you can pay extra to get more insight if you’re interested.
Either way, you’re sure to have a great time at this tranquil place. What I especially like about the shrine is its location. Getting towards it, the path is equipped with tons of lanterns and the surrounding smaller shrines give everything a very special feel to it. I highly recommend walking at least the portion of Nara Park, it’s one of my personal highlights from Nara.
The shrine is certainly a must-see for everyone who is into Japanese history or the unique Japanese Shintoism. With the botanical garden and the museum, you can witness many ancient relics and plants that have been preserved until today.
That’s it for Kasuga Taisha, I hope you enjoyed it!
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See you there!