When I commenced my research for this guide, I became aware that there is a substantial history in this area. Which presented me with a problem - where do I begin?
I will begin with introducing you to the main character, and an individual you will hear a lot of, as I explain the history of the Shrines and Temples in the Yamato district of Nara - Crown Prince Shotoku(573-621),second son of Emperor Yomei.
It was Prince Shotoku who was responsible for bringing Buddhism into Japan,as a fulfillment of a deathbed wish of his late father, Emperor Yomei(518-587).
Once departing the J.R.Yamatokoizumi Station, you soon find yourself weaving your way through narrow streets to your first destination - Koizumi-jinjya (Shrine).From here, you pass the homestead of Katagiri Sadamitsu (see P.O.I. for full details)before joining Route-123 and your ascent to Matsuo-dera Temple.Matsuo-dera is nestled amongst the forest of Matsuo-yama (Mt Matsuo)and overlooks the Yamato district and offers great views of the surrounding countryside, including Nara.After a stroll through the complex,you begin your descent through the forest exiting via a local golf-course (don't worry,your track is well fenced to protect you from any wayward golf-balls)where you will be greeted by some very-nice picturesque Japanese countryside.Soon you will exit this road, in favour of a cycle/pedestrian way that will take you to Horin-ji Temple.This is an ideal spot to take a bite-to-eat,but,the caretakers of the complex have asked that you don't consume your lunch within the complex.Not to worry,a hundred meters down the road is a sheltered seating area for you to relax, with a map of the area with your route to the next destination - Chugu-ji Temple.To get here you again have to weave your way through some narrow streets and some quaint Japanese houses.Adjacent to Chugu-ji is Horyu-ji Temple, the main attraction of this guide.To appreciate this huge complex, with it's many buildings and history, may I suggest you allow plenty of time to wander freely and not to rush the experience. There is so much to see/experience.After exiting Horyu-ji, you join a short boulevard (Route-146)lined with many Sakura (Cherry trees) and Willow, the perfect end (almost) to your day.A 20-minute walk from here takes you to the J.R. Horyu-ji Station, and home.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the assistance of my friend and guide,Motokazu Mishima.Motokazu-san is an experienced guide and has a great knowledge of Japan and it's history.I have attached a link to the organization he is associated with.
Access to the area is best by Japan Rail. Yamatokoizumi and Horyuji Stations are on the J.R. Yamatoke Line,which runs from Osaka to Nara. From Kyoto,you take the J.R.Nara Line to Nara and change there.
If you are in Nara,and want to visit the Horyu-ji Temple,there is a special bus that departs from J.R.Nara and Kintetsu Nara Stations.
If you want to commence your tour from Masuo-dera Temple,there is a bus that runs from the J.R.Yamatokoizumi Station to the complex.
The first section of this guide - J.R.Yamatokoizumi Station to Matsuo-dera Temple, is not well signposted,so you need to follow this map carefully.From Matsuo-dera all the way to the end,the trail is very-well signposted,plus there are notice-boards,with maps,giving directions and a history in English.
Admittance;to Matsuo-dera is ￥300,to Horin-ji is ￥300,to Chugu-ji is ￥500,to Toin Garan (Eastern Precinct Horyu-ji)is ￥200 and to Saiin Garan (Western Precinct Horyu-ji) is ￥1,000.
With regards to food & drink,I suggest you purchase your supplies before you arrive.There are combination stores along the way,and the occasional small cafe,but,to be on the safe-side,stock-up before you arrive.If you are only visiting Horyu-ji Temple,there are plenty of eateries in the area.
When to come and what to wear? Well,any-time of year is a good time to visit Japan.All I say,is just dress accordingly.