The Kasuga Taisha was established at the same time as when Nara became appointed as the capital of Japan and is Nara’s most representative shrine. It is dedicated to the god responsible for the protection of the city. It was patronized by the Fujiwara clan, the most powerful family during the Nara and Heian eras.
In accordance with Shinto tradition, the Kasuga Taisha had been rebuilt every 20 years for many centuries. However, the Kasuga Taisha broke from this custom at the end of the Edo era. The shrine is famous for its bronze lanterns, which are donated by worshippers. The lanterns are lit twice a year during two lantern festivals held in February and mid-August, and this is a popular time to visit the shrine.
The shrine’s prayer hall can be visited for free but there is a paid area from which you can see more of the inner buildings that display the Kasuga style of architecture that is distinguished by its sloping roof over the front of the building. There is also a sprawling botanical garden next to the shrine which displays 250 plants cited in the Manyoshu, Japan’s oldest collection of poems dating to the Nara era. The garden is a popular place to view purple wisteria flowers that blossom from around early May.