About Asuka Fujiwara

Many Japanese associate “Asuka-Fujiwara” with the home of the Japanese soul.One reason for this is that the capital city with a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo codes came into being by political / cultural exchanges with East Asia and it became the stage for the birth of Japan. And even now, more than 1,300 years later, the stage of its history has been well preserved in the rural landscape.Based on the value of this land, we believe that it is important to push initiatives for new community development and promotion of interchange with visitors as well as to widely communicate information about the land within Japan and abroad while taking pride and having confidence in living on this land so that Asuka-Fujiwara comes to be recognized by a wider range of people.

Asuka –The period during which Japan was built

In 592, Empress Suiko ascended the throne at the Toyuranomiya palace in Asuka. The subsequent roughly 120-year period up to 710, when the capital was transferred from Asuka-Fujiwarakyo to Heijokyo, is called the “Asuka period.” During this time, the state of Japan was formed through repeated political reforms and changes in government, such as the dispatch of envoys to Sui Dynasty China, the framing of the Seventeen Article Constitution, the Isshi Incident and the Taika Reform, the Jinshin War, and the promulgation of the Taiho Code.

Development of palaces and government offices

From the reign of Emperor Jomei, the palace continued to be located at the site where the Asuka Palace is thought to have stood. The structure of palaces during the Asuka period developed in a way that embodied the contemporary idea of nation building. As the ritsuryo-based centralized government system was developed, an increasing number of government office buildings responsible for administrative work were built around the palace. Archiological sites of these buildings arround the palace such as gardens where banquets and rituals were held, the water clock tower for the state to keep track of time, and ritual facilities demonstrate the nation’s fulfillment.

Construction of Buddhist temples and the rise of Buddhism

Asuka-dera Temple Site

It was during the Asuka period that the first Buddhist temples were built in Japan, marking the start of the spread of Buddhism. In the Asuka area, Buddhist temples such as Asuka-dera Temple whose construction began in 588, Tachibana-dera, Yamada-dera, and Kawara-dera Temples stood together in large numbers. They employed a tile-roofed, stone-based structure that was enabled by introducing technology from immigrants and international students in East Asia and were in sharp contrast to Asuka’s palaces, whose structures were supported by posts in the ground and had roofs thatched, a Japanese architectural style that had been passed down since antiquity.

The rise and decline of Kofun culture

Takamatsuzuka Mounded Tomb

Many burial mounds of emperors and other members of the contemporary Imperial family, were also built. The Asuka period marked the end of the long dominance of Kofun culture, and the style of burial shifted from the huge keyhole Japanease burial mound that had been symbols of power until then to square-shaped burial mound influenced by Chinese culture or octagonal burial mound that shows emperor-centered worldview and so forth. Among these burial mounds, the Takamatsuzuka and Kitora Tumuli with mural paintings clearly demonstrate the propagation of thought and art from the East Asian world.

Fujiwara PalaceThe birth of an ancient city

Relocation to Fujiwara

As Asuka Basin became cramped, in order to overcome this situation, a plan was made to build a new capital based on the emperor-centered worldview based on the ritsuryo system on a wide open plain in the northwest direction of the basin. That is Fujiwara Palace, which was moved from Asuka Palace in 694.Situated in nearly the center of the plain surrounded by the three Yamato mountains and occupying a site approximately 900 meters square, Fujiwara Palace was girded on all sides by 5.5-meter-high fences. At the heart of this site stood the buildings known as “Dairi” (the Imperial Palace), “Daigokuden” (the Council Hall), and “Chodoin” (the State Halls). Previously, all Asuka palaces had a structure supported by posts in the ground, but Fujiwara Palace was the first to adopt a tile-roofed, stone-based structure in the Chinese style. To the east and west of the palace spread many blocks of government office buildings occupied by the two highest officials and eight ministries. This indicates that the palace in Asuka and the government offices around it were combined into one in Fujiwara Palace, establishing the centralized system that had gradually formed and developed during the Asuka period.

Fujiwara-kyo, a new capital

Fujiwara Palace Site

With Fujiwara Palace as its center, the capital city expanded under a grid system with streets laid out in neat order. It occupied an area 5.3 kilometers square, including the three Yamato mountains. In building the capital, the government levelled off hills, filled up valleys, built roads, and reallocated land systematically. In the process of replotting, officials were given areas of land that suited their court ranks. Moreover, government offices and Buddhist temples were established within the capital.

State Buddhist temples and large pagodas, symbols of the capital

Motoyakushiji Temple Site

Daikandaiji and Motoyakushiji Temples, both state Buddhist temples, were built to the east and west, respectively, of the area south of Fujiwara Palace, and they served as the head temples of the capital. In particular, the huge nine-storied pagoda of Daikandaiji Temple was comparable to contemporary state Buddhist temples in East Asian states and it was a symbol of keeping the nation tranquil by the reciting of Buddhist prayers and other Buddhist ceremonies.

Bunbutsu no gi, Kore ni sonawareri

As described above, the ritsuryo-based centralized government system built in Asuka bore fruit in Fujiwara-kyo. ‘Asuka-Fujiwara’ is the unparalleled cultural heritage that marks the birth of the first imperial capital based on a centralized system in the center of the Japanese archipelago, located at the eastern edge of East Asia from the end of the 6th century to the beginning of the 8th century. It was a fruit of the political and cultural exchanges that took place between Japan and China and the countries of the Korean Peninsula at the time, and it flourished in a unique way through the introduction of foreign cultures through the active acceptance of immigrants and their fusion with Japan’s unique traditions.. In 701, the government proudly declared, “Bunbutsu no gi, Kore ni sonawareri”—a statement boasting that codes, rituals, and various other measures as well as national government systems such as the bureaucracy and administrative structures had been established. This indicates that the state of Japan was complete, having established a centralized government system in the newly developed capital.