UNESCO issued its first two medals on Japanese themes in 2005, one for each of the two series.* The Yakushi Temple is one of eight historic monuments of ancient Nara, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1998. Built in the eighth century, the three-tiered tower represented on the medal is one of two, both famous for their elegant form. Struck by the Paris Mint, the medal’s obverse is inscribed Yakushiji, ji meaning “temple” in Japanese. The reverse has the UNESCO logo.

Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784. During this period the framework of national government was consolidated and Nara enjoyed great prosperity, emerging as the fountainhead of Japanese culture. The city’s historic monuments – Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and the excavated remains of the Imperial Palace – provide a vivid picture of life in the Japanese capital in the eighth century, a period of profound political and cultural change.

The medal was designed by renowned Japanese painter Ikuo Hirayama. In 1961, he was the first recipient of a UNESCO fellowship and has remained active in fellowship programmes since. From 1990 to 1999, Professor Hirayama financed ten fellowships a year, through the Hirayama Silk Roads Fellowships programme. He is an active campaigner for the Organization’s work in heritage preservation, both as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and as the Chairperson of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO.

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(*see also the Hideki Yukawa medal in the Anniversaries Series)

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