Most likely the name of Sentokun does not ring a bell for you. Sentokun was chosen as the mascot for Nara. He was designed by Satoshi Yabuuchi, a sculptor and professor at Tokyo University of the Arts (goal to resemble a boy as a young Buddha with added antlers of a deer). In order to mark the 1,300th anniversary of the ancient capital in Nara, Sentokun is promoting visits to the roots of Japan. In the deep past the capital of Japan was mainly in Nara, then moving in 794 to Heian-kyō, the present Kyoto.
From my point of view the Nara period reflects the most cosmopolitan Japan. The Nara court aggressively imported Chinese civilization by sending diplomatic envoys to the Tang court every twenty years. Many Japanese students, both lay and Buddhist priests, studied in Xian and Luoyang. Further relations with the Korean kingdom of Silla were established. From northern Korea Balhae sent its first mission in 728 to Nara. Tang China’s capital Xian was the model for Nara. In many other ways, the Japanese upper classes patterned themselves after the Chinese, including adopting Chinese written characters (Japanese: kanji), fashion, and the religion of Buddhism.
For me the most impressive literary monuments were written during the Nara period, including the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, the first national histories, compiled in 712 and 720 respectively; the Man’yōshū (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), an anthology of poems; and the Kaifūsō (Fond Recollections of Poetry), an anthology written in Chinese by Japanese emperors and princes.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤）