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In 2010, my alma mater, Kyoto City University of Arts, marked the 130th anniversary of its founding. When I took its entrance exam in 1984, the test on color composition was held on the second day and its theme was “The Silk Road.” At one exam venue I saw many paintings in the motif of the Silk Road, including camels walking across the desert, a solar halo appearing around a Buddha statue against a background of the horizon, bleak ruins, and temples.

Heijō-kyō (the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara Prefecture) was the final destination of the Silk Road, and therefore the capital flourished as an international city. The year 2010 marked the 1,300th anniversary that the capital was moved from Fujiwara-kyō to Heijō-kyō.

Nara is a popular place for outings for Kansai-area inhabitants, a must-see school trip course for junior-high and senior-high school students, and a favorite sightseeing location for foreigners and Japanese alike. Along with Kyoto, it is a well-known, ancient capital and one of the crown jewels of Japanese history and culture. However, just to claim familiarity with the Great Buddha of Nara and some deer roaming in the park doesn’t necessarily mean one understands much about Nara. Shall we learn more about Nara now that it has already celebrated its 1,300th anniversary?

                                      Translation by Eiko Aoki