Nara Prefecture, almost in the center of the Japanese archipelago, is close to such big cities as Osaka and Kyoto. It is a landlocked prefecture stretching from north to south. The Nara Basin occupies the northwestern part of the prefecture, while the mountainous region of Kii stretches in its southern part.
Nara City, where the APEC Tourism Ministerial Meeting is to be held, is the prefecture's largest city with a population of some 370,000. Situated in the northern part of the prefecture, it swarms with residential and commercial districts. At the same time, it boasts beautiful nature, including Nara Park, a leading urban park in Japan. It is also home to a large number of Japan's most noted historical and cultural assets. The prefecture is blessed with an unrivaled natural and cultural environment.
It is possible to reach the center of Nara City by train from Osaka or Kyoto in 30 to 40 minutes. From Kansai International Airport, a gateway to the western Japan region, it can be reached in about 80 minutes by limousine bus. From Tokyo, it is about a three hours' ride on the Shinkansen bullet train.
Because it is in the neighborhood of major cities, Nara Prefecture produces many kinds of vegetables and fruits, including spinaches, persimmon (kaki) and strawberries, and supplies them to Osaka and other markets. Recently, the prefecture has been working to develop its stock-raising industry, such as Yamato gyu (beef) and Yamato chicken. At the same time, thanks to its abundant forestry resources such as Yoshino sugi (cedar trees), forestry is one of the key industries of the eastern and southern parts of the prefecture.
In manufacturing, electrical products, general machinery and metal production have large weight. There are also many regional industries, such as textile products (socks and knitted products), fur and leather products, and household medicine delivered and kept in stock for home use when needed.
In the Kansai Science City in the northern part of the prefecture, there are clusters of research centers and various facilities, including the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST), where active research is taking place. Many outstanding achievements have been attained in industry-academia-government cooperation.
Since very early in history, Nara has prospered as the center of Japan. In 710, Heijo-kyo, Japan's first full-fledged national capital, was established there, and this year marks its 1300th anniversary.
With the capital in place, a "Ritsuryo" legal system patterned after Chinese legal codes was introduced, establishing a basic framework of centralized administration as a nation-state. Through active exchanges with the Chinese Continent, it introduced diverse cultures from the Eurasian Continent. The fusion of such cultures with Japan's indigenous culture resulted in the florescence of a colorful, international culture.
The effects of such exchanges can still be seen today in numerous buildings and cultural assets in this area that represent Japan. Visitors can let their imagination roam in Japan's deep and rich history, which goes back to time immemorial.
Nara took in diverse cultures and skills such as Buddhism and Chinese characters from China, the Korean Peninsula, etc. It did not merely take in these elements but fused them with indigenous Japanese culture to create the foundation of today's Japanese culture.
The three World Heritage sites in Nara are leading examples of that historical development. They are the Hall of Great Buddha of Todai-ji Temple, one of the largest wooden structures in the world; Horyu-ji Temple, the world's oldest wooden structure still standing; and the sacred sites and pilgrimage routes in the Kii mountain range, which developed against the background of diverse faiths based on the region's natural environment.
Nara is also the birthplace of "Sado" (tea ceremony) and "Noh" drama, which are known throughout the world as representative forms of Japanese culture. Also, as the birthplace of "sake" (Japanese rice wine) and "manju" (steamed buns with sweet bean filling), Nara has had a great impact on Japanese food culture. Traditional arts and crafts, all of which have developed through long history, are still flourishing and being passed on from generation to generation without losing their splendor. These include Takayama tea whisks (small bamboo whisks used in tea ceremony), Nara writing brushes and "sumi" (ink sticks), and red-clay pottery.
Nara has adopted numerous systems, cultures and skills from across the Eurasian Continent thanks to exchanges of many people, as represented by the dispatch by ship of Japanese missions to China during the Tang Dynasty.
The exchanges of people and cultures have continued uninterrupted since then. Nara Prefecture has a cultural and tourism exchange agreement with Chungcheongnam-do (Chungnam for short) in the Republic of Korea (ROK) designed to respect each other's cultural traditions and work for mutual prosperity and development. Nara City, the venue of the APEC Tourism Ministerial Meeting, has concluded sister and friendship city ties with Gyeongju in the ROK, Canberra in Australia, and Xi'an and Yangzhou in the People's Republic of China.
The first meeting of the "Conference of Local Governments in East Asia" is scheduled to be held in Nara in October 2010. The meeting is designed for the heads of East Asian local governments to discuss issues of common concern to the region, deepen mutual understanding and contribute to stable development of the region as well as to further promotte exchanges in the Asia-Pacific region.
Nara Prefecture is holding various events to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital throughout this year, under the theme of "Nara, the starting point, and moving experiences," at the former site of the Heijo Palace and other locations in the prefecture. Chief attractions are the reconstructed Daigokuden main hall for imperial audience and exhibits at the Heijo-kyo History Museum, where visitors can enjoy watching the history and cultures of that ancient era through animation and other state-of-the-art programs. Also, many national treasures, important cultural assets and other secret treasures scattered throughout the prefecture, including secret statues of Buddha, will be opened to the public as a special treat.
It is hoped that many people will visit Nara to experience the numerous historical and cultural assets as well as rich nature throughout the prefecture and come into contact with the sources of the Japanese soul that goes back to time immemorial.
In order to bring the 2010 APEC Tourism Ministerial Meeting to a success, Nara Prefecture has established a liaison council so that the government and relevant organizations can work together as one. The council will help manage the APEC meeting, prepare residents for welcoming the meeting whole-heartedly and transmit information on Nara's charms.
Such activities include assigning a "concierge" for each APEC delegation to realize warm hospitality by answering various questions and requests concerning Nara. It is also holding hospitality training sessions for hotel, tourism industry and prefectural government employees.
An "APEC Security Precautions Council" was also established so that the police, relevant agencies and local residents can work together to prevent terrorism and other disruptive activities.
Information will be posted as soon as it is available.
(Information on this page was offered from Nara Prefecture.)