Nara Prefecture is situated in the west central section of Honshu. The formation of an ancient nation started around mid-3rd century, with the Yamato district as its center, and was completed by the late 6th century. The capital was placed in Asuka, in the southern part of the Nara Basin, located in the northwestern part of present-day Nara Prefecture, and it prospered as the political and economic center of Japan until the early 8th century. After the capital was relocated to Heijo-kyo (now Nara City) in 710, many temples and shrines were built there under the direction of the imperial family and aristocrats, and temple towns soon developed. 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.
Horyu-ji Temple, which is said to have been built in the early 7th century, is known as the oldest existing Buddhist temple in Japan. The temple boasts of the world's oldest wooden architecture, and there are many paintings and sculptures in its possession. The temple is also inscribed as a World Cultural Heritage Site. Tourists visit Nara Prefecture throughout the year to see scenic spots such as Yoshinoyama, known as the best cherry blossom viewing point in Japan, and Nara Park, with its friendly deer which have been treasured as messengers from the gods.