As you can see from below, whilst we talk about Kyōto , Osaka and Nara as three distinct cities, the reality is that they are rapidly forming a single concrete megapolis (though I'm sure they still remain proudly distinct culturally).
Whilst it's possible to see more than one area in Nara in one day, it'd make for a very, very long day. As such we, decided to only concentrate on one area - Nara Koen. From Nara Station, it's a short walk (1.5km)... and if you make a small detour (see B below), you can visit one of the ancient Kofun burial mounds - actually where the 9th Emperor of Japan was buried, Emperor Kaika.... Though to be honest, as we didn't have a detailed map, we missed it.
The most striking feature of Kōfuku-ji is the pagodaThe five storied pagoda was first constructed in 730, but the present one (below) dates from 1426 – and standing at 50 metres in height, it is the second tallest in Japan after the one at Tō-ji
At it's base are housed four Buddhas: Yakushi the healing Buddha (east), Shaka the historical Buddha (south), Amida Buddha of the Western Paradise (of course, the west), and finally Miroku the Buddha of the future (north).
Behind the Nan'en-dō is the three story pagoda, Sanju-no-to, that dates back to 1143. Whilst not as visually impressive as it's big brother, it retains much of the original feel and artwork.
It was the Emperor Shōmu's daughter, Empress Shōtoku (who became Empress twice and was given a new name each time, and died in 770 of smallpox) who would almost bring about the complete enthrallment of the Imperial Throne to the Buddhist monks. She had an infamous affair with a priest , known as Dōkyō, who is thought to have nearly become Emperor. Whilst Shōtoku was the sixth of 8 women to rule over Japan as Empress, following the Dōkyō, it would be another 850 years or so before there would be an Empress again.
This growing power of the temples over the Imperial line lead the young Emperor Kammu to escape, first to Nagaoka and then finally to where present day Kyōto lies. Unlike previously abandoned capitals however, this one retained much of the majesty through the continuing existence of the Buddhist temples of Nara.
The deer's of Nara Koen take it all in... when they're not pestering you for a feed.
Our next stop along is Tōdai-ji itself. The road approaching, like many temples in Japan, is lined with shops selling food, gifts, and all assortment of tourist crap. This isn't a new thing - as these temples have been tourist magnets for many hundreds of years.