As part of the Cultural Activities for Students at NAIST, 31 tour participants (21 international students, 7 Japanese students and 3 staff members) visited Horyuji temple, Saidaiji Temple and Heijo Palace on June 6th, 2018. This tour was held to introduce Japanese culture and history to stimulate participants and further develop their beliefs, etc., which will become the foundation of the roles they undertake as researchers and engineers.
The tour first visited Horyuji Temple, which was built in the Asuka period by Prince Shotoku. Its buildings are considered to be some of the oldest in the world and they convey the 1400 years of tradition that the temple represents. It was first in Japan to be registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the guides explained this world-renowned treasure of Buddhist culture in both English and Japanese.
Following this the group toured Saidaiji Temple, where they were able to experience drinking tea together from a tea bowl larger than their heads. According to Temple records, this 'Ochamori Ceremony' is a tradition that dates back to when the Japanese Buddhist Monk Eison served tea that was presented to Hachiman Shrine to the people and this has been passed down through generations for roughly 800 years as a religious tea ceremony.
Finally, at the Heijo Palace Site participants viewed Suzaku Gate, the main gate of the Heijo Palace, which was rebuilt using the foundation discovered through excavations and historic materials, and then visited the Izanai-kan to learn more about Heijo Palace's history and significance.
The students enjoyed the day exploring Japanese culture and history in Nara and students commented that "it was fun to not only learn but also to experience culture" and that they "enjoyed learning and feeling history."