The oldest city of Japan, founded in 709 A.D., and the first permanent Imperial capital ( 710-780), Nara remains in no sense a city of ruins. Though possessing a thriving population of some 373,000, which is fast increasing, and with the latest aspects and improvements of modern civilization, Nara is essentially and unmistakably an ancient city. Many parts of great cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, even Kyoto, have their counterparts elsewhere in Japan. There is a small Ginza and a small Dōtonbori in almost any large city. Nara is unique. There is no larger or lesser Nara anywhere. Japan is worth visiting from across the four seas if only to see this ancient capital.
Of the various features that constitute the lure of Nara, three stand out pre-eminently. The first is its world-famous giant bronze Buddha, the largest and oldest in the world, through one of whose nostrils a full-grown man can easily pass. It is an image of Buddha seated, cross-legged, upon the lotus flower. It was completed in 752, after repeated failures. It is 53.5 feet high, its face 16 feet by 9.5 feet, its eyes 3.9 feet long, its ears 8.5 feet long, its mouth 3.7 feet, its nose 3.9 feet long, its nostrils 3 feet in diameter, its thumb 4.5 feet in length. The lotus flower on which the image sits is 10 feet high and 68 feet in diameter. It is recorded that the casting required 438 tons of copper, 8 tons of white wax, about 870 lbs. of gold, and about 4,855 lbs. of mercury.