The city mainly known for its massive deer population and as the home of Japans largest bronze Buddha. Nara is conveniently located about an hour’s train ride away from Osaka. And as the city is quite compact and small it makes for the perfect destination for a day trip from Osaka.
Day 1 – 24.7.2017
After getting a last-minute invite the night before to join a few Couchsurfing friends on their trip to Nara, I decided to go with them without much preparation at all. I knew that Nara Park was the main attraction of the city with all its deers and within the park you could also visit some of the biggest shrines and temples of the city. So off to the park it was!
The train ride from Osaka was comfortable and cheap and the views on the way were pretty nice. We took the JR line to Nara station and walked about 20 minutes to get to the park from there. We picked up some english maps from the information center right in front of the station to help us navigate all the sites. The park doesn’t have an entrance fee but most of the attractions within do. The deer cookies cost ¥150 for one set.
Our first stop was Kofuku-ji Temple which was right at the entrance of the park. Nice pagodas and buildings but otherwise a very bare temple area to walk through to enter the park itself. Next we headed towards the home of the great Buddha, Todai-ji, passing through the massive Nandai-mon gate. Also had my first Mitarashi Dango here. The Buddha hall was impressive and I got some ‘Good Luck’ there.
[Travel] You will benefit from travelling.
As our last stop we went to the Kasuga Taisha shrine. The walk up there was very pleasant with tree-shaded paths and an overall more quiet atmosphere with fewer people around as most probably take the bus to get there. The shrine itself was tucked in the woods. We just went through the parts that had no admission fee and headed back towards city center passing through hundreds of lanterns lining the street.
Finally it was time to feed the deer! Observing other people attempt to do this had tought us that the deer can get quite aggressive when they notice you have food to give them, but lose interest immediately when you have nothing for them. The trick to get them to leave you alone was clearly to show them your empty hands NOT to run or walk away, because they will follow! I got bitten a few times by a more aggressive deer but soon got the hang of the whole thing. Just remember to hide the cookies you’re carrying with you!
And last but not least, we were off to feed ourselves. Coco Curry was conveniently on our way back to the station. This was my first visit in Japan but certainly wont be the last.
Day 2 – 5.8.2017
For the second trip to Nara I wanted to see other areas besides the park and all the deer in it. For my first destination I headed to Heijo Palace Site. The former city center and capital during the Nara period, since then all the buildings have been destroyed and now the ones standing at the site are all reconstructions. The area is completely free to enter including a few museums and a small garden. I wasn’t originally planning to spend too much time there, but it ended up being a much larger area than I expected and once I started collecting the stamps from each facility within the area I just had to go to all of them. While the area is pleasant and green, it mostly just resembles a park. It would be best toured on a bike or by car and on a cooler day might I add.
Next target for the day was Naramachi area. The older narrow streets and well-preserved houses turned into museums. I made a quick stop at the Craft Museum but there wasn’t much to see. It was mostly for different workshops to try a variety of crafts, but none were available at that time.
I was running a little behind schedule as most places in Naramachi area close quite early, but I still made it to the Naramachi Lattice House. It was a small old house open to the public where you could walk through all the rooms and gardens. Also the lady at the reception desk was super nice and even gave an origami to everyone as a gift for stopping by. Worth a visit, but was very quick to tour.
My last goal was to make it to Yoshiki-en Garden before their closing time… I missed the last admission time by less than ten minutes but the reception lady still let me in for a quick look around. It was a very beautiful garden that stretched out much further than it first seemed. I was very happy I just made it there. This was also one of the first places I had seen anywhere that were specifically free for foreigners.
A dinner at a family restaurant was the last part of my day in Nara. And finally got my first parfait and it was good! Very refreshing tropical fruit parfait with pineapple, mango and some cheesecake on the top.