Nara Prefecture

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Nara Prefecture
奈良県
Prefecture
Japanese transcription(s)
 • Japanese 奈良県
 • Rōmaji Nara-ken
Official logo of Nara Prefecture
Symbol of Nara Prefecture
Location of Nara Prefecture
Country Japan
Region Kansai
Island Honshu
Capital Nara (city)
Government
 • Governor Shōgo Arai
Area
 • Total 3,691.09 km2 (1,425.14 sq mi)
Area rank 40th
Population (March 1, 2011)
 • Total 1,396,849
 • Rank 29th
 • Density 378.43/km2 (980.1/sq mi)
ISO 3166 code JP-29
Districts 7
Municipalities 39
Flower Nara yae zakura
(Prunus verecunda cultivar)
Tree Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica)
Bird Japanese robin (Erithacus akahige)
Fish Goldfish ( Carassius auratus auratus )[1]
Ayu (Plecoglossus altivelis altivelis)[1]
Amago (Oncorhynchus masou ishikawae)[1]
Website www.pref.nara.jp/english

Nara Prefecture (奈良県 Nara-ken?) is a prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan.[2] The capital is the city of Nara.[3] Nara Prefecture has the distinction of having more UNESCO World Heritage Listings than any other prefecture.[4]

History[edit]

Nara Prefecture region is considered one of the oldest regions in Japan spanning thousands of years. The present-day Nara Prefecture as it exists now officially was created in 1887, making it independent of Osaka Prefecture.

Historically, Nara Prefecture was also known as Yamato-no-kuni or Yamato Province.[5]

Up to Nara Period[edit]

It is certain that there was a political force established at the foot of Mount Miwa in the east of Nara Basin, seeking unification of most parts in Japan from the third century until the fourth century, though the process was not well documented. At the dawn of history, Yamato was clearly the political center of Japan.

Ancient capitals of Japan were built on the land of Nara, namely Asuka-kyō, Fujiwara-kyō (694–710) and Heijō-kyō (most of 710–784). The capital cities of Fujiwara and Heijō are believed to have been modeled after Chinese capitals at the time, incorporating grid layout patterns. The royal court also established relations with Sui and then Tang Dynasty China and sent students to the Middle Kingdom to learn high civilization. By 7th century, Nara accepted the many immigrants including refugees of Baekje who had escaped from war disturbances of the southern part of the Korean peninsula. The first high civilization with royal patronage of Buddhism flourished in today's Nara city (710–784 AD).

Nara in the Heian period[edit]

Kōfuku-ji

In 784, Emperor Kammu decided to relocate the capital to Nagaoka-kyō in Yamashiro Province, followed by another move in 794 to Heian-kyō, marking the start of the Heian period. The temples in Nara remained powerful beyond the move of political capital, thus giving Nara a synonym of "Nanto" (meaning "South Capital") as opposed to Heian-kyō, situated in the north. Close at the end of Heian period, Taira no Shigehira, a son of Taira no Kiyomori, was ordered by his father to depress the power of mainly Kōfuku-ji and Tōdai-ji, who were backing up an opposition group headed by Prince Mochihito. The movement has led into a collision between the Taira and the Nara temples in 1180, when eventually Kōfuku-ji and Tōdai-ji were set on fire, resulting in the vast loss of its architectures.

Medieval Nara[edit]

The red autumn leaves in Yoshino

At the rise of the Minamoto to its ruling seat and the opening of Kamakura Shogunate, Nara enjoyed the support of Minamoto no Yoritomo toward restoration. Kōfuku-ji, being the "home temple" to the Fujiwara since its foundation, not only regained the power it had before but became a de facto regional chief of Yamato Province. With the recovery of Kōfuku-ji and Tōdai-ji, there was a town growing near the two temples.

The Nanboku-chō period, starting in 1336, brought more instability to Nara. As Emperor Go-Daigo chose Yoshino as his base, a power struggle arose in Kōfuku-ji with a group supporting the South and another siding the North court. Likewise, local clans were split into two. Kōfuku-ji recovered its control over the province for a short time at the surrender of the South Court in 1392, while the internal power game of the temple itself opened a way for the local samurai clans to spring up and fight with each other, gradually acquiring their own territories, thus diminishing the influence of Kōfuku-ji overall.

The Sengoku and Edo periods to present[edit]

The restored turret of Kōriyama Castle

Later the whole province of Yamato got drawn into the confusion of the Sengoku period. Tōdai-ji was once again set on fire in 1567, when Matsunaga Hisahide, who was later appointed by Oda Nobunaga to the lord of Yamato Province, fought for supremacy against his former master Miyoshi family. Followed by short appointments of Tsutsui Junkei and Toyotomi Hidenaga by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to the lord, the Tokugawa Shogunate ultimately ruled the city of Nara directly, and most parts of Yamato province with a few feudal lords allocated at Kōriyama, Takatori and other places. With industry and commerce developing in the 18th century, the economy of the province was incorporated into prosperous Osaka, the commercial capital of Japan at the time.

The economic dependency to Osaka even characterizes today's Nara Prefecture, for many inhabitants commute to Osaka to work or study there.

Geography[edit]

Map of Nara Prefecture

Nara Prefecture is part of the Kansai, or Kinki, region of Japan, and is located in the middle of the Kii Peninsula on the western half of Honshu. Nara Prefecture is landlocked. It is bordered to the west by Wakayama Prefecture and Osaka Prefecture; on the north by Kyoto Prefecture and on the east by Mie Prefecture.

Nara Prefecture is 78.5 km from East to West and 103.6 km from North to South.

Most of the prefecture is covered by mountains and forests, leaving an inhabitable area of only 851 km². The ratio of inhabitable area to total area is 23%, ranked 43rd among the 47 prefectures in Japan.[6]

Nara Prefecture is bisected by the Japan Median Tectonic Line (MTL) running through its territory East to West, along the Yoshino River. On the northern side of the MTL is the so-called Inner Zone, where active faults running North to South are still shaping the landscape. The Ikoma Mountains in the Northwest form the border with Osaka Prefecture. The Nara Basin, which lies to the East of these mountains, contains the highest concentration of population in Nara Prefecture. Further East are the Kasagi Mountains, which separate the Basin from the Yamato Highlands.

South of the MTL is the Outer Zone, comprising the Kii Mountains, which occupy about 60% of the land area of the prefecture. The Ōmine Range is in the center of the Kii Mountains, running North to South, with steep valleys on both sides. The tallest mountain in Nara Prefecture, and indeed in the Kansai region, is Mount Hakkyō. To the West, separating Nara Prefecture from Wakayama Prefecture, is the Obako Range, with peaks around 1,300 metres. To the East, bordering Mie Prefecture, is the Daikō Range, including Mount Ōdaigahara. This mountainous region is also home to a World Heritage Site, the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range".

About 17% of the total land area of the prefecture is designated as National Park land, comprising the Yoshino-Kumano National Park, Kongō-Ikoma-Kisen, Kōya-Ryūjin, Murō-Akame-Aoyama, and Yamato-Aogaki Quasi-National Parks; and the Tsukigase-Kōnoyama, Yata, and Yoshinogawa-Tsuboro Prefectural Natural Parks.[7]

Climate[edit]

Tanzan Shrine in autumn

In the Nara Basin the climate has inland characteristics, as represented in the bigger temperature variance within the same day, and the difference of summer and winter temperatures. Winter temperatures average about 3 to 5 °C, and 25 – 28 °C in the summer with highest reaching close to 35 °C. There is not a single year over the last decade (since 1990, up to 2007) with more than 10 days of snowfall recorded by Nara Local Meteorological Observatory.

The climate in the rest of the prefecture are mountainous, and especially in the south, with below −5 °C being the extreme minimum in winter. Heavy rainfall is observed in summer. The annual accumulated rainfall ranges as much as 3000 to 5000 mm, which is among the heaviest in Japan.

Spring and fall are both temperate and beautiful. The mountainous region of Yoshino has been popular both historically and presently for its beautiful cherry blossoms in the spring. In the fall, the southern mountains are equally beautiful with the changing of the oak trees.

Hōryū-ji at cherry blossom, Ikaruga Town

Cities[edit]

Twelve cities are located in Nara Prefecture:

Towns and villages[edit]

These are the towns and villages in each district:

Mergers[edit]

Demographics[edit]

Population by districts[8]
District Area Size
(km²)
Population Density
per km²
Yamato flat inland plain 837.27 1,282 1,531
(Share in %) 22.7% 89.7%
Yamato highland 506.89 56 110
(Share in %) 13.7% 3.9%
Gojō, Yoshino 2,346.84 92 39
(Share in %) 63.6% 6.4%
Total Prefecture 3,691.09 1,430 387
(Share in %) 100.0% 100.0%

According to the 2005 Census of Japan, Nara Prefecture has a population of 1,421,310, which is a decrease of 1.5%, since the year 2000.[9]

The decline continued in 2006, with another decrease of 4,987 people compared to 2005. This includes a natural decrease from previous year of 288 people (11,404 births minus 11,692 deaths) and a decrease due to net domestic migration of 4,627 people outbound from the prefecture, and a decrease of 72 registered foreigners. Net domestic migration has turned into a continuous outbound trend since 1998. The largest destinations of migration in 2005 were the prefectures of Kyoto, Tokyo and Hyōgo, with respectively a net of 1,130, 982 and 451 people moving over. The largest inbound migration was from Niigata Prefecture, contributing to a net increase of 39 people. 13.7% of its population were reported as under 15, 65.9% between 15 and 64, and 20.4% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 52.5% of the population.[10]

As of 2004, the average density of the prefecture is 387 people per km². By districts,[11] the so-called Yamato flat inland plain holds as much as about 90% of total population within the approximately 23% size of area in the north-west, including the Nara Basin, representing a density of 1,531 people per km². To the contrast, the combined district Gojō and Yoshino District occupies almost 64% of the land, while only 6% of people lives there, resulting in a density of 39 people km².

Nara prefecture had the highest rate in Japan of people commuting outbound for work, at 30.9% in 2000. A similar tendency is seen in prefectures such as Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa, all three of them having over 20% of people commuting for other prefectures.[6]

Politics[edit]

  • A governor and members of prefectural assembly is elected by citizens in accordance with the Local Autonomy Law.
  • As of 2007, there are 44 seats in the Nara Prefectural Assembly, voted through 16 electoral blocks.
  • There was a clear tendency seen through the results of Lower House election in 2005, that the younger generation executes its voting right much less compared to the older. Only 48.8% of citizens age 20–29 voted, whereas all older generations (grouped by decades) votes more than its younger, reaching the highest voting rate of 86.3% at ages 60–69. The only exception was the 72.1% voting right executed by citizens of 70 or older. The overall average of the prefecture who voted was yet higher, at 70.3%, than that of nationwide average, 67.5%.[12]

Economy[edit]

A huge Nara calligraphy brush

The 2004 total gross prefecture product (GPP) for Nara was ¥3.8 trillion, an 0.1% growth over previous year. The per capita income was ¥2.6 million, which is a 1.3% decrease from previous year. The 2004 total gross prefecture product (GPP) for Nara was ¥3.8 trillion, an 0.1% growth over previous year. Manufacturing has the biggest share in the GPP of Nara with 20.2% of share, followed by services (19.1%) and real estates (16.3%). The share of agriculture including forestry and fishery was a mere 1.0%, only above mining, which is quasi-inexistent in Nara.[13]

  • Tourism is treated by the prefectural government as one of the most important features of Nara, because of its natural beauty and historical significance.
  • Nara is famed for its Kaki persimmon. Strawberry and tea are some other popular products of the prefecture, while rice and vegetables, including spinach, tomato, eggplants and others are the dominant in terms of amount of production.
  • Nara is a center for the production of instruments used in conducting traditional Japanese artforms. Brush and ink (sumi) are the best known products from Nara for calligraphy. Wooden or bamboo instruments, especially from Takayama area (in Ikoma city) are famous products for tea ceremony.
  • Goldfish from Yamatokoriyama in Nara have been a traditional aquacultural product since the 18th century.
  • Due to its rich history, Nara is also the location of many archeological digs, with many famous ones being located in the village of Asuka.

Culture[edit]

Statue at Tōdai-ji

Because of its background, the better part of Nara's culture can only be described through learning the history of Japan, notably in Nara Period.

Nara is currently in its preparation to celebrate the 1300th anniversary of the opening of Heijō Palace.

Education[edit]

Universities[edit]

Sports[edit]

The sports teams listed below are based in Nara.

Football(Soccer)

Basketball

Tourism[edit]

Many Jinja (Shinto shrines) and Buddhist temples, and kofun exist in Nara Prefecture, and it is a centre for tourism. Moreover, many world heritage sites, such as the temple Tōdai-ji and Kasuga Shrine, exist in the capital city of Nara.

World Heritage sites[edit]

World Heritage Sites in Nara

Transportation[edit]

Railroad[edit]

Bus[edit]

from Nara and Tenri[edit]

from Yamato Yagi and Gose[edit]

Road[edit]

Expressways and toll roads[edit]

National highways[edit]

  • Route 24
  • Route 25 (Osaka-Tenri-Nabari-Yokkaichi)
  • Route 163
  • Route 165
  • Route 166
  • Route 168 (Hirakata-Ikoma-Kashiba-Gojo-Totsukawa-Shingu)
  • Route 169 (Nara-Tenri-Oyodo-Yoshino-Shingu)
  • Route 308
  • Route 309
  • Route 310
  • Route 311
  • Route 368
  • Route 369
  • Route 370
  • Route 371
  • Route 422
  • Route 425

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "金魚・アユ・アマゴを「奈良県のさかな」に – MSN産経west" [Goldfish, Ayu, and Amago elected "Fish of Nara prefecture".]. Sankei Shimbun (in Japanese). June 27, 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-27. 
  2. ^ Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Nara-ken" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 699, p. 699, at Google Books; "Kansai" at p. 477, p. 477, at Google Books.
  3. ^ Nussbaum, "Nara" at p. 698, p. 698, at Google Books.
  4. ^ "Nara". GoJapanGo. Retrieved June 19, 2012. 
  5. ^ Nussbaum, "Yamato" at p. 1046, p. 1046, at Google Books.
  6. ^ a b "奈良県統計情報 "100の指標" ("100 Indices of Nara" by Nara Statistics Division, Nara Prefecture)" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  7. ^ "General overview of area figures for Natural Parks by prefecture". Ministry of the Environment. 1 April 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2014. 
  8. ^ Whitepaper on Ecology (Japanese). Prefecture of Nara. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
  9. ^ "Population Census 2005" (in Japanese). Archived from the original on April 15, 2008. Retrieved 2007-04-10.  (Including official amendment of March 5, 2007)
  10. ^ "Population Statistics of Nara Prefecture 2006" (in Japanese). Archived from the original on January 18, 2008. Retrieved 2007-04-10. 
  11. ^ Defined by Nara Prefecture for the convenience of statistical analysis. See "Population of each district" for 2005 figures.
  12. ^ "tōhyō ritsu no sui'i (投票率の推移 Evolution in voting rate, Nara Prefecture" (in Japanese). Archived from the original on June 12, 2008. Retrieved 2007-04-10. 
  13. ^ "奈良県民経済計算 (Nara kenmin keizai keisan Nara Prefectural Economy)". Nara Prefecture. April 9, 2002. Archived from the original on March 14, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-28.  English page with much less details are available here.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°34′N 135°46′E / 34.567°N 135.767°E / 34.567; 135.767