Fujiwara-kyo was the first and largest capital in the history of Japan located in Kashihara City, Nara Prefecture, the northwest of Asuka-kyo. It was also the first capital where a Jobosei (street plan of ancient capital) was proclaimed in the history of Japan, and was an authentic Chinese style capital.
It is said that this capital represented the ideology of Rites of Zhou.
The construction of Fujiwara-kyo started in 690, and the capital was relocated from Asuka Kiyohara no miya Imperial residence in 694. It is said that the completion of Fujiwara-kyo was in 704 which was ten years after the capital relocation; the construction had already started in 676.
The article in December, 690 in "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) has the following description. On December 5, Takechi no miko (Prince Takechi) inspected the site for the Fujiwara Palace; he was accompanied by the ministers and public functionaries. And the article in January, 691 states as follows. On January 23, the Empress went to Fujiwara and inspected the site for Fujiwara Palace; she was accompanied by the ministers and public functionaries. Further, the article in December, 694 has the following statement. The Empress removed her residence to the Fujiwara Palace.
One legend suggests the date of the capital relocation was before noon on December 30, when the Empress Jito left Asuka Kiyohara no miya Imperial residence for the relocated capital. Fujiwara-kyo was the Imperial capital of Japan for 16 years for the reigns of Empress Jito, Emperor Monmu, and Empress Genmei until its capital was relocated to Heijo-kyo in 710. According to Fuso ryakki (A Short History of Japan), the palace was burned down in 711.
The name of Fujiwara-kyo was a created word in modern times and its name had never been written in "Nihonshoki."
In the article in February 7, 692 in "Nihonshoki," this capital was recorded as 'Aramashi no miyako, Aramashi-kyo, Shinyaku no miyako, or Shinyaku-kyo,' and the Imperial Palace was recorded as 'Fujiwara Palace.'
Scale, size of capital
At first, it was presumed that Fujiwara-kyo was located on the inside of Yamato Sanzan (Three Mountains of Yamato). It was believed that Fujiwara-kyo was 1.1 km from east to west and 3.2 km from north to south, however, the Dai Fujiwara-kyo (Greater Fujiwara-kyo) was revealed by the discovery of Kyogoku-oji Street from east to west in the 1990's. With its scale being 5.3 km square, at least 25 sq km, it was larger than Heian-kyo (23 sq km) or Heijo-kyo (24 sq km), and was the largest capital in ancient Japan. The scale of Dai Fujiwara-kyo included Yamato Sanzan (Mt. Miminashi in the north, Mt. Unebi in the west, Mt. Amanokaguyama in the east).
It was called 'Dai Fujiwara-kyo.'
The Fujiwara Palace which included the Imperial Palace and the government office was located slightly to the north from the center of the capital, and there was the Suzaku-oji Street, the main street running in the north-south direction from the Fujiwara Palace. This Suzaku-oji Street was very narrow with a width a little bit longer than 24 meters (between the center of side ditches), compared to the one with a width of 70 meters in Heijo-kyo and Heian-kyo.
There were nine streets vertically and horizontally respectively, except in Kyogoku.
In the capital area, the east part of Suzaku-oji Street is called Sakyo and the west part called Ukyo, and it was divided by ten Bo(s) (district), in a grid pattern called 'Jobosei,' in the north-south direction and east-west direction. There was a record in Taiho Koryo (Taiho code for households) and Taiho Kaniryo (Taiho code for government officials) that a Borei (chief of the four districts of the capital) was deployed in every four Bo(s) in both of Sakyo and Ukyo. The record showed that there was a city in the northern part of the Imperial Palace.
One of the problems was that, since the terrain was high in the southeast and low in the northwest, the drain from the southeast part including filth flows into the area around the Imperial Palace; also there were neither walls that surrounded the capital nor front gate.
The area of Fujiwara Palace was about one kilometer square. The palace was surrounded by walls roughly 5 meters high and each of the four walls had three gates, 12 gates in total. Suzaku-mon Gate was the main gate and stood at the center of the south wall. The Fujiwara Palace was Chodo-in (the main administration building) remnants which boasts the largest scale in Japan, about 600 meters from north to south and 240 meters from east to west. The Daigokuden (imperial audience hall) and other palace buildings were the first palaces built in Japan to have a tiled roof in the Chinese style.
1200 pieces of Mokkan (narrow, long, and thin pieces of wood strung together that were used to write on in ancient times) have been unearthed. Some of them are said to be historical materials that can possibly restore such contents as Taiho Code. They are said to be of high value which included the name of era such as 'the first year of Taiho era' (year of 701), the names of ministries such as 'Nakatsukasasho' (Ministry of Central Affairs) and 'Kunaisho' (Ministry of the Sovereign's Household), or the names of high officials at that time.
Dodan (dirt mound) of Daigokuden in Fujiwara Palace still remains in Takadono-cho, Kashihara City, Nara Prefecture, and the area is currently a historical park (location:). 60 percent of Fujiwara Palace sites are designated as a special historical site and Fujiwara Palace and Fujiwara-kyo are still undergoing the excavation survey.
In January, 2007, Japanese government put Fujiwara-kyo areas on the tentative lists of nominees for UNESCO World Heritage registration, as 'Asuka-Fujiwara: Archaeological sites of Japan's Ancient Capitals and Related Properties.'
It was the broad-minded Hakuho culture which flowered in this capital. Hakuho culture was the one that centered on emperors and nobles. Daikandai-ji Temple (Takechidai-ji Temple) and Yakushi-ji Temple were built. The Buddha head in Kofuku-ji Temple is an example representative of Hakuho culture.
Although there is a minor opinion that the Japan's first capital is Dazai-fu (local government office in Kyushu region), there has been virtually no academic thesis which takes up this theory affirmatively in the scientific journals with peer review, and in general Kyushu dynasty theory and its related opinions are not considered as scientific theories.