We sent our reporter to a shop in Nara where you can dress as a noble from the Nara period (AD 710-794) and even stroll around town in your costume!
Before Tokyo or Kyoto, Heijo-kyo, otherwise known as modern-day Nara, was the capital of Japanese civilization between approximately AD 710–794. And now, through the newly opened Shozoku Sanpo 710 [“Costume Walk 710”] shop located in the heart of Nara City, you can experience what it would have been like to dress as an aristocrat during those bygone days.
While kimono rental shops are quite common in Japan, it’s rare to find a place offering clothing characteristic of the Nara period of Japanese history, which is also known as Tenpyo clothing [天平衣装]. The term “Tenpyo” denotes the specific years between AD 729–749 under the reign of Emperor Shomu-tenno, which were also the years when the giant Buddha statue of the Todai-ji temple complex was nearing completion. Nowadays, “Tenpyo” can often be used interchangeably with “Nara period,” which is why clothing distinctive to the Nara period is referred to as Tenpyo clothing.
The people running Shozoku Sanpo 710 have thoroughly researched ancient Japanese clothing and faithfully recreated authentic garb based on contemporary literature and art from the Nara period. Our reporter Masami, whom we sent to check out the new store, was incredibly pleased with this particular style of dress as it was very easy to move around in, unlike the 12-layered junihitoe kimono worn by court ladies of the subsequent Heian period (AD 794-1185). Furthermore, as she notes, the shop offers a full line of choices for men, women, and children, so you can enjoy the experience with friends, your significant other, or your entire family to boot!
The shop is just a few minutes’ walk from Kintetsu Nara Station and is located on the first floor of the Kiratto Nara shopping center. As a sign of its authenticity, Shozoku Sanpo 710 is even endorsed as an official shop of the Ancient Nara Tenpyo Festival, which recreates the atmosphere of ancient Nara with a procession in period clothing and other traditional events, by the festival’s executive committee.
You can mix and match your costume from various pieces of clothing found within the shop. Take some time to choose the perfect colors that suit you from dozens of vivid hues. The staff at hand are also happy to assist you if you’re having trouble deciding on which colors will match you best. In fact, Masami had some trouble narrowing down the choices, but she eventually settled on an outfit composed of a pink top and a blue skirt.
At this point, you may be wondering about the total cost of this experience. The prices actually range depending on which services you want. If you’d like to simply dress up in the shop and take some pictures there, it’s 1,000 yen (US$8.26) for men, women, and children alike. If, however, you’d like to take a one-hour stroll around the city after dressing in your new-ancient garb, the cost is 2,500 yen ($20.65) for men and boys and 3,000 yen ($24.78) for women and girls. These prices are quite reasonable by our reporter’s estimates, so you can be sure to enjoy the experience without worrying about bankrupting your trip.
Although putting on a modern kimono can take a painfully long time, it took no more than a few minutes for our reporter to finish dressing in her costume. Even her hair, fashioned using a clip accessory to mimic the style of the Nara period, took only a short time to prepare, so she had plenty of time to enjoy sightseeing around the vicinity. The shop also lent her a sashiha, or a fan-shaped object which was used to conceal the faces of nobles, to take with her on her venture. Men are similarly lent a shaku, which is a type of ritual baton as seen in the photo below.
▼ This mystery male traveler with our reporter also looks quite dapper in his period clothing while posing next to Nara’s mascot Sento-kun.
Once she both looked and felt the part of a Nara period noble, it was time to explore the town. One of the great things about Nara is that pretty much anywhere you go is perfect for taking commemorative photos of your trip. Masami certainly took advantage of this fact by walking only two minutes from the shop to the ancient Kofuku-ji temple complex to get her first portraits of the day. Besides housing several treasures such as a priceless statue of an Asura [a Buddhist demigod/fighting demon], the complex is also the site of Sarusawa Pond, which was made infamous by the Legend of Uneme. This tragic story tells the tale of a court lady who became depressed after the emperor supposedly fell out of love with her and subsequently drowned herself in the pond.
▼ The best picture by the pond that visitors can probably get is to stand with the five-storied pagoda in the background.
If you have access to a car, our reporter also recommends taking an approximately 15-minute drive from the shop to pose in front of several reconstructed structures of Heijo Palace, also known as the Nara Imperial Palace. You can’t get much closer to the past while dressed in ancient clothing than by doing that!
On a final note, Masami cautions that Shozoku Sanpo 710 does NOT lend shoes for you to wear, so please come prepared with some kind of footwear that would be fairly inconspicuous with your outfit.
The opportunity to dress as a Nara period aristocrat is an unforgettable experience that everyone who’s visiting Japan’s ancient capital should take advantage of. Don’t miss this chance during your next trip to Nara!
Name: Heijo-kyo Tenpyo-sai Official Shop Shozoku Sanpo 710 / 平城京天平祭Official Shop 装束散歩710
Address: 101 Kiratto Nara, 3-1 Hashimoto-cho, Nara-shi, Nara-ken
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
All images © RocketNews24
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