Monday, December 19, 2022

How to Explore Nara in One Day

During our stay in Osaka we made a day trip to Nara. Famous for its hundreds of deer roaming around a large park within the city, beautiful Japanese zen gardens and ancient shrines that date back to when Nara was Japan’s first capital city – this city shouldn’t be missed when visiting Japan. Located only a short train ride from both Kyoto and Osaka, taking a day trip to Nara is the perfect way to break from the busy city life of the bigger cities and inhale the tranquility and serenity of nature and history. The city is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
We took the Osaka Loop Line from Osaka to Nara. It is included in the JR Train Pass if you have opted to buy it. Nara has two main train stations: JR Nara Station and Kintetsu-Nara station. If you arrive at JR Nara Station, you can start your day by visiting the Tourist Information Centre. It’s located right outside the station and you can pick up a free booklet filled with information about the deer park, the shrines and temples. You can also find a Starbucks in this building. We made a stop at the Tourist Information Centre to get coffee and make a brief restroom break.

Deer in Nara

The first sight that will greet you in the Nara Park are the deer. They roam freely and come up to you. Especially if you have food. These are wild animals nonetheless and one needs to be careful around them. There are warning signs too. But when they warm up to you, you can pet them. We did it and it was quite the experience.

Visit Kofuku-ji temple (KĊfuku-ji)

Kofuku-ji Temple is located only a few minutes from Kintetsu-Nara station. It’s a little bit further from JR Nara Station, but this gives you a chance to walk through some of Nara’s iconic streets. Kofuku-ji Temple is one of the eight UNESCO world heritage sites that can be found in Nara. The original Central Golden Hall at Kofuku-ji Temple was destroyed in a fire almost 300 years ago. It has been reconstructed to its original size and opened to the public in October 2018. Inside, you can find the Yakushi Buddha.

Wander through Isuien Garden

Next on our Nara day trip itinerary is Isuien Garden. It’s not far from the Kofuku-ji temple grounds. Translated into English, the garden’s name means “garden founded on water”. The front garden dates back to the 17th century, while the back garden was built in 1899. Inside the garden, you will find several tea houses. This garden is a perfect example of what I imagined Japanese Zen Gardens to look like.

Visit Todai-ji Temple

Todai-ji Temple is one of Nara’s most famous buildings. Also listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, Todai-ji is the world’s largest wooden structure. It houses the world’s largest Daibutsu-san, or Bronze Buddha Statue, in the Great Buddha Hall. Here you will find most of the tourists. You have to pay entrance to enter it. The temple was established in 752. If you’re planning your one day in Nara, make sure to stop by this temple.

It is almost impossible to grasp the size of Todai-ji. The fact that this building is entirely made out of wood is incredible. To enter the building, you pay an entree fee for the museum or buy a combined ticket for the museum and the hall. Inside the hall, you can witness Japan’s largest Buddha statue in bronze.

Explore Nara Deer Park and Mt. Wakakusa

By the time you’ll get to Nara Deer Park, you’ll probably already have encountered some deer. It is probably one of Nara’s most famous spots and something the city is definitely using to attract tourists. Shops are filled with stuffed animals in the shape of deer and there are countless little stands selling deer crackers. Over 1,200 sika deer roam around the park freely. They are wild animals but have grown accustomed to the visitors. They pose for Instagram stories and beg for a few of the deer crackers that are sold around the park. A pack will cost you ¥100 – ¥150 and gives you a chance to feed the deer.

Food in Nara

We at this wonderful place (or I should say food truck) called Kinari Pizza. They make real Neapolitan style pizzas, and even a delicious sweet pizza with nutella and blueberries with ice cream on top. It was do tasty and I highly recommend this place after a long walk in the city.

Dusk in Nara

As the sun started to set we made our way through Sanjo dori street in Nara. Along this street you will find little shops, cafes and restaurants. This is a great place to get some souvenirs and they are better priced then at the Nara Park.


At the End of the Day

Back at Nara Station we waited for our train to take us back to Osaka. The sun had just set and the wonderful afterglow was lingering in the sky. I loved the view from the train station. I felt so far away from home but in a safe and familiar place at the same time. Nara was a perfect getaway and easily explored in one day. This wouldn't be the last time we saw deer in Japan, but more on that later in this travel series.

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  1. I'll be honest, I've never heard the name before and the town meant nothing to me. From therefore great that you introduce them to us. Once again I have learned something.

    Also somehow crazy also with the deer. You would not suspect something like that.

    Thanks for all the impressions.

    Have a good start into the new week and greetings over to your place


    1. Thanks Nova! Yes, Nara is a delight and the deer are probably its biggest selling point!

  2. Delightful deer, and a very impressive pizza! Thanks for sharing these!

  3. ...a beautiful and exciting destination. I thank you for taking me along for the tour.

  4. Mersad, thank you for sharing your adventure in Nara with your fine descriptions and photo. Love your sunset photo with all the train tracks. The deer are amazing.

  5. what an amazing adventure!!! The deer are wonderful, your photos amazing - and you had me at the fruit/dessert pizza!! What fun

  6. So beautiful place, Very informative post, Amazing pics

  7. Nara the old capital in Japan. What a fantastic series on your journey to the East

  8. Wow, what a beautiful place. The food at that food truck looks amazing. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  9. It looks awesome! Enjoy the holidays!



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