Japan's first permanent capital was established in the year 710 at Heijo, the city now known as Nara. As the influence and political ambitions of the city's powerful Buddhist monasteries grew to become a serious threat to the government, the capital was moved to Nagaoka in 784.

Nara is located less than one hour from Kyoto and Osaka. Due to its past as the first permanent capital, it remains full of historic treasures, including some of Japan's oldest and largest temples.

Such temples and shrines include Todai-ji Temple, which has the Daibutsu, the world's largest Buddha statue, made of copper and gold. It is enshrined in the world's largest wooden structure, Daibutsu-den (Great Buddha Hall). Other famous temples include Yakushi-ji Temple, which has wonderful old wooden architecture and statues of Buddha, and Toshodai-ji Temple which was founded by the Chinese priest Ganjin, who came to Japan after difficult journeys and spread the principles of Buddhism.