Tenri city holds the distinction of once being the abode of the Imperial family and currently being the largest religious city in Japan. The city was founded in 1954 and takes its name from said religion; Tenrikyo.
Tenri city lies in the eastern part of the Nara basin. The area around the city contains many burial mounds and shrines dating from early historic times.
The city has a population of just under 70,000 and is served by both Kintetsu and JR Rail Lines.
Tenri is also home to Tenri University, known not only for its affiliation to the religion, but also for its sporting prowess, especially in the realms of rugby and judo.
Every Summer Olympics carries a notable contingent with affiliations to the university.
Tenrikyo is a religion originating from the teachings of a 19th-century woman named Nakayama Miki, known to her followers as "Oyasama". Followers of Tenrikyo believe that God revealed divine intent through Miki Nakayama as the Shrine of God.
A central teaching of Tenrikyo is the concept of the Joyous Life. Follower believe that "God the Parent" created human beings to take delight in seeing them live the Joyous Life which is defined as a state of perfect bliss which is cultivated through acts of charity and mindfulness called hinokishin. Tenrikyo's worldly aim is to teach and promote the Joyous Life to all people.
The primary operations of Tenrikyo today are located at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters in Tenri City. The church welcomes visitors and newcomers and will happily assist you and answer any questions you may have about the religion. They do not however regard their church as a tourist attraction and as such, filming or photography of any kind is not permitted inside the church.
Address: 1-1 Mishimacho, Tenri, Nara 632-0015
Tenri University Sankokan Museum
The Tenri University Sankokan Museum was established as “The Overseas Reference Materials Room” in 1930 to “broaden knowledge of the lifestyles and histories of people from various regions of the world” by collecting, preserving and displaying ethnographical, archeological and transportation related artifacts.
The museum’s permanent exhibition is spread across 3 floors and 3,000 items from the museum’s extensive collection (approx. 300,000 artifacts) are on display. Seasonal and special exhibitions are held 3-4 times a year, including workshop, museum concerts and lectures.
The Tenri University Sankokan Museum is located a 20-minute walk to the southeast of Tenri Station. It’s open from 9:30am-4:30pm Wednesday-Monday. The museum is closed on Tuesdays. Admission is ¥500 for adults (high school students and up), and ¥200 for elementary and junior high school students.
*Photography and filming at Tenri Sankokan is usually prohibited. We would like to thank the museum for allowing us to film inside in order to compile this blog and accompanying video.
Address: 250 Morimedo, Tenri, Nara 632-8540
Phone: 0743-63-8414 Fax: 0743-63-7721
Hours: 9:30-16:30 (Last Entry at 16:00)
The museum stays open every day during the following periods: April 17-19, July 26-August 2, January 5-7 and the 25th-26th of every month.] April 28 (Anniversary of the Museum’s Founding) August 13-17 (Summer Closure) December 27-January 4 (Year-End & New Year’s Season)
Closed: Tuesday (When a national holiday falls on Tuesday, the museum closes on Wednesday instead.)
Admission: ¥500 for adults (high school students and up), and ¥300 for elementary and junior.
Get in touch with ancient Japan and experience Nara as it once was as you stroll along the Yamanobe-no-Michi, part of the country’s oldest road, the Shinkaido.
Along the footpath you will have the opportunity to visit historic shrines, enjoy picturesque landscapes and also enjoy the amenities available when you want to take a break and enjoy a meal or a light snack. There are even unmanned fruit/vegetable stands offering a variety of seasonal wares such as Japanese mikan and taro root (potatoes) both fresh and affordable.
The Nara leg of the trail stretches from Tenri to Sakurai and the hike is a 3 or 4 hour commitment depending on your pace allowing for a few stops along the way. The trail includes both modern paved sections and old dirt roads, and with only just a few up-and-down sections, the trail is suitable for almost anyone.
Starting from JR Tenri Station you will see clearly marked signs guiding you there. The first and one of the main points of interest along the trail is Isonokami-Jingu Shrine, one of Japan’s oldest Shinto Shrines. Giant cedar trees surround the shrine which is dedicated to Futsu-no-Mitama-no-Okami, a deity who was said to dwell inside a sword given to Jimmu-Tenno, the country’s first emperor. The legendary 7 branched sword (七枝刀) is housed there as well as other ancient weapons as the site was once used as an armory.
On continuing your trek from Isonokami Jingu Shrine you will encounter other temples and smaller shrines, ancient burial mounds and places of natural beauty. In addition to the historical treasures along the trail, you will also treated to sublime views. Walking the trail at the end of March offers amazing vistas full of pink cherry blossoms and fields of rape blossoms. Equally, an Autumn walk is supplemented by fiery reds, deep oranges and vibrant yellows.
Tenri City Trail Center
Along the aforementioned Yamanobe-no-michi you will come across the Tenri City Trail Center, not far from Chogaku-ji Temple. The Trail Center is very similar to a "michi-no-eki," a kind of one stop facility for travelers in rural areas which offers amenities, a place to eat and purchase local produce, arts and crafts.
What stands this center apart is the restaurant found inside, namely "Yoshoku Katsui" as featured in the 2022 Michelin Guide:
There is tranquil scenery outside and the terrace seating is pleasant. Seafood, caught that day , comes from Izumisano fishing port. Fried shrimp of the season, such as greasyback shrimp, Japanese tiger prawn and green tiger prawn, is the speciality. Local bounty comes in the form of fresh vegetables and Hinohikari rice from nearby farmers.
The trail center is a great place to stop off, refuel, purchase some local souvenirs and bask in the warmth of the local people.
Address: 577-1 Yanagimotocho, Tenri, Nara, 632-0052, Japan
Breakfast: (Tue-Sun) 8:30〜10:00
Lunch & Cafe: (Tue-Sun) 11:00-16:30
※Mon: Chef's Lunch of the Day (11:00-14:00)
Dinner: (Thurs-Sun & Hols) 17:00-21:00 (LO. 20:30)
Closed: First Monday of every month
Isonokami Jingu Shrine
Despite its historical importance and undeniable beauty, visitors to Isonakami Jingu Shrine will be forgiven for remembering it as "the chicken shrine." As you approach the torii gate entrance, the sound of clucking chickens gradually begins to fill the air, almost like a welcoming fanfare. Much like the deer of Nara park, the chickens at Isonokami Jingu Shrine are revered as messengers of the gods.
The chickens are given free-range in the morning and return to their coups in the afternoon, which is when we visited.
Located at one end of the Yamanobe-no-michi, Japan’s oldest road, sits is Isonkami Shinto shrine. Regarded to be one of the oldest extant shrines in Japan, having played a pivotal role in the nation's early history, especially during the 3rd to 5th centuries, legend has it that the temple was built in 91 BC during Emperor Sujin’s reign (Sujin being widely thought of as a partly legendary figure. ) it is unknown which deity (Kami) was originally worshipped there but the shrine is known for having been used as a weapons storehouse and some historically important artifacts are/were stored there.
One of the most significant is a 7 branched sword known as the Nanatsusaya-no-Tachi or Shichishitō. This sword was a symbol of the relationship at the time between Japan and the kingdoms of the Korean Peninsula. Gifted to the King of Yamato by the Crown Prince of Baekje, a kingdom on the Korean Peninsula.
For many years, there was no inner shrine here, an excavation was carried out in 1874, and uncovered an actual sword. The shrine where the sword currently rests is now treated as the inner shrine
Other precious artifacts housed there include:
The Totsuka-no-Tsurugi. A legendary weapon. According to legend, a god named Susanoo used the sword to slay the Yamata-no-Orochi, a giant serpent like creature with eight heads and eight tails. This sword is not available for public viewing. Ten treasures brought by Amenohiboko, a Korean prince who settled in Japan. The collection of treasures he brought are known as the Tokusa-no-Kandakara. It is a collection of ornate mirrors, a sword and jewels and women’s scarves.
Address: 384 Furucho, Tenri City, Nara Prefecture
Hours: 5:30 - 17:30 (Sunrise / sunset)
Views from the top of Mt. Ryuo look out over the Nara basin, making it an ideal place for a lookout. During the waring period, [1482-1588] Tōichi Tōtada thought as much and decided to build a castle here. Nowadays, almost nothing is left of the castle, but the hike to the top remains
as popular as ever, if not for the views as much for the workout.
At an altitude of 586 meters, Mt. Ryuo rises prominently among the mountain range that borders the Yamato Plateau and Nara Basin.
There are several hiking paths up the mountain which converge not far from the top. We took the one that runs past Tenri dam which can be traversed by car the other two start at the tomb of Emperor Suijin’s and next to Chogaku-ji Temple.
The hike is quite tough and not recommended for those with mobility issues - as you can see from our video - we only filmed ourselves coming down.
The shinto shrine Ōyamato Jinja Shrine is tucked away in a rural district of Tenri city. Although many records were lost to fire in 1583, it is believed that its name, Ōyamato, is in direct reference to the city of Yamato, capital of Yama-taikoku, the ancient proto-Japanese nation. Later, the area of present day Nara prefecture was referred to as Yamato province, and the period from CE 250 to 710 is collectively known as the Yamato period. The present main hall dates from the end of the 17th century.
Ōyamato Jinja Shrine was the guardian shrine of the battleship Yamato, the largest warship ever built, which was sunk in the last months of WWII with the loss of 2,736 lives. A commemorative stone which indicates shrine’s connection with the ship stands at 2,736mm in memorial to the fallen. Furthermore, the approach road from the first torii to the main hall is 270m long, the approximate length of the battleship.
The peaceful and austere precincts of the shrine, surrounded by forest, are perfectly attuned to contemplation on the futility of war, while the rustling leaves gently whisper Japan’s pacifist promise.
Ōyamato Jinja Shrine is a 500m-walk from JR Nagara station on the Manyo-mahoroba line.
Address: 306 Niizumocho, Tenri City, Nara Prefecture
Tenri Station Plaza CoFuFun
CoFuFun was built with the goal of encouraging local community revitalization by providing a space for events, tourist information dissemination and leisure facilities for local residents. The unique design of the main buildings were inspired by ancient Japanese tombs called "kofun," of which there are many in Tenri city.
The facilities have become a beacon for young children looking to play together after school and in the holidays. There are swings, a slide, climbing platform and a giant trampoline. There is also an outdoor stage, restaurant, tourist information center, bike shop with rentals and a shop specializing in local products. The building next to JR Nara station has also been converted into a huge open space available for people to gather at their own leisure, with facilities for toddlers and desks for teenagers to catch up on their studies.
The next passage was taken from the webpage of nendo, the company that designed CoFuFun.
"The plaza’s name, CoFuFun, combines the main design motif, the cofun, with colloquial Japanese expressions. “Fufun” refers to happy, unconscious humming: the design for the plaza should offer a convivial atmosphere that unconsciously leads visitors to hum, happily, while they’re there.
The alphabet spelling, “CoFuFun”, also brings in the “co-” of “cooperation” and “community”, as well as – of course – “fun” itself. The result is a name whose Japanese and alphabet spellings mean similar things, so that foreign visitors to the plaza will understand it in the same way, too."
Address: 803 Kawaharajocho, Tenri, Nara 632-0016
Hours: 8:00 - 19:00
Sharp Technology Innovation Museum
The history of Sharp corporation is one of innovation, technological firsts and progressive thinking. All of this is and more is on display at the Sharp Technology Innovation Museum.
Some of Sharp's illustrious history includes the invention of the Ever-Ready Sharp mechanical pencil in 1915. The product became one of the first internationally available mechanical pencils.
In 1953, they produced the first Japan-made TV sets and in 1964, the company developed the world's first transistor calculator, which was priced at a staggering ¥535,000 (US$1,400)
and also released the first microwave oven with a turntable.
In the year 2000, Sharp's Mobile Communications Division created the world's first commercial camera phone. In June 2005 Sharp produced the largest LCD television at the time, with a display of 65 inches and again in 2007 with a screen size of 108 inches and 5 years later Sharp unveiled the largest production TV at the time, with a screen size of 80 inches as part of its famed Aquos range and went on sale in Japan at around ¥950,000.
In 2013 Sharp developed the most efficient solar cell, converting a record 44.4% of sunlight into electricity.
Sharp began selling the world's first commercially available 8K TV in October 2015 with an eye watering price tag ¥16,000,000 (US$133,000). Japanese public broadcaster NHK started test broadcasts in 8k the following year and 200 hours of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was broadcast on their domestic satellite service BS8K.
In March 2020, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Sharp augmented one of its TV factories with high-end cleanrooms to manufacture surgical masks. The mask were in high demand and customers had a to enter a lottery for the right to purchase a box.
Address: 2613 Ichinomotocho, Tenri, Nara 632-0004
Hours: 9:30 - 17:00
Closed: Sat & Sun
Along National Route 169, just before the highway that connects Nagoya and Osaka you'll come across a giant peanut.
You've arrived at Nakanishi Peanuts, a one-stop shop for all things peanut - and a whole host of other varieties of nut, too.
Inside their bright, recently rebuilt shop you are treated to a mouthwatering cavalcade of nut treats, all beautiful presented should you want to get something as a present. They also make fresh peanut paste (or butter depending on where you come from) made with fresh peanuts right in front of your eyes. You can also choose from almond or cashew.
You can also purchase a small pot of ice cream made form Canadian maple syrup and Californian walnut.
The factory where they make all their produce is adjacent their showroom store and from inside the store, there are several large windows where you can look into the factory and watch them do their magic.
Despite being busy with in-shop customers and internet orders pretty much all day long, Nakanishi Peanuts does not have a webpage! For something as unique as it is high quality, Nakanishi Peanuts is a great addition to your itinerary.
Address: 2340 Ichinomoto-cho, Tenri City, Nara
Hours: 10:00 - 17:00 Closed: Sundays & public holidays
Le Reve is a French restaurant located just a 5 minute walk from Isonokami Jingu Shrine.
The building itself is a repurposed traditional Japanese house which has been exquisitely redesigned into a modern western restaurant. The concept of Le Reve is to provide customers with western dishes which compliment and reflect the changing of the four seasons.
Le Reve is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike and the large carpark in front of the restaurant is definitely a plus. The lunch course is reasonably priced from ¥1,800 with dinner starting at ¥5,500.
Le Reve is also often used for wedding receptions and private parties so if you are planning to visit, we recommend you call ahead to check for availability.
Address: 123 Somanouchicho, Tenri, Nara 632-0032
Hours: 8:00-16:30 & 17:30-22:00
Closed: Wednesday (Open if Wed is a holiday)
Nara Prefecture Historic and Artistic Culture Complex
The overarching aim of the Culture Complex is to inspire "5-sense" curiosity in its visitors in a relaxed environment of fun and discovery.
At the Nara Prefecture Historical and Artistic Culture Complex, you get to experience all the things that the people of Nara take pride in, such as history, religion, art, food and agriculture.
The complex is made up of 5 wings:
Restorations and Exhibition Wing
Unique to anywhere in Japan, visitors get to see up close just how experts go about cleaning, protecting and restoring Buddhist sculptures, paintings, writings, historical buildings, archaeological discoveries. These year round viewings come with an expert guide to walk you through the complex and answer your questions.
Culture Exchange Wing
Here you'll find a spacious restaurant serving dishes made with local ingredients that also offers panoramic views of the Yamato Plains from their outdoor terrace. Next to that is shop with selling Naraʼs agricultural products and traditional crafts. There are also cooking classes using the seasonal ingredients of Nara and traditional craftwork experiences.
Artistic Culture Wing
Public viewing and exhibition of works by Japanese and international artists.
Here they hold regular events such as traditional arts and cultural seminars and casual art sessions for everyone, including infants.
This facility provides tourist information relating to the historical and cultural for the entirety of Nara Prefecture, as well as the surrounding areas.
Outdoor Experience Zone
The observatory deck and trails will offer beautiful views of the Yamato Plains and mountains
The adjacent hotel, Fairfield by Marriott Nara Tenri Yamanobenomichi, is a stylish and comfortable base for exploring Nara’s culture and walking the ancient Yamanobe-no-Michi trail.
Address: 437-3 Somanouchicho, Tenri, Nara 632-0032
Hours: 9:00 - 17:00
Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn