The Todaiji Temple is located in the famous Nara Park. It is worth noting that it is the largest wooden structure in the world.
The origins of Tōdai-ji are inspired by a shrine called Kinshō-ji that was founded in 728 for the rest of the spirit of Crown Prince Motoi, son of Emperor Shōmu. In 741, when the Emperor issued his edict ordering the construction of a national system of monasteries (Kinkōmyō-ji) known as Kokubun-ji, Kinshō-ji was elevated in status. In 743, Emperor Shōmu made his proclamation to raise a Great Image of Buddha and, when the capital was returned to Heijō (Nara), construction of the colossal effigy of Vairocana began on the grounds of the Kinkōmyō-ji and was completed in 749. The construction of the Great Buddha Hall was carried out simultaneously and the image was consecrated in 752 with a lavish ceremony.
According to records kept by Tōdai-ji, more than 2,600,000 people, in total, helped build the Great Buddha and its Hall. They contributed rice, wood, metal, cloth, or labor. Some 350,000 individuals worked directly on the construction of the statue.
In 1180, more than half of the complex, including the Great Buddha Hall, was destroyed in the fire that resulted from the attack on the Nara temples by Taira no Shigehira. The following year, the monk Chōgen (1121-1206) began the restoration of the temple and in 1185 the Great Buddha was consecrated. The following year, Suō Province (Yamaguchi Prefecture) was designated to provide income for the reconstruction of Tōdai-ji, thus increasing the pace of work.
Ten years later the Great Buddha Hall was completed. As the temple was rebuilt, school activities that had been stagnant also resurfaced, and during the Kamakura period (1185-1333), the temple trained many learned monks.
After the beginning of the Meiji period in 1868, the edicts legislating the separation of Shinto and Buddhist religious establishments and the confiscation of temple lands threatened the existence of Tōdai-ji. However, the temple managed to make major repairs to the Great Hall of the Buddha at the beginning of this century and again in the 1970s and has endeavored to preserve the extensive complex with all its structures.
Today, Tōdai-ji preserves many precious cultural treasures from the temple’s past, but it is also a treasure house for traditional Buddhist rituals.
Many people from all over Japan and the world visit the temple to worship and pay their respects each year.