Thursday, March 23, 2017

A day trip to Nara (Japan)

Just less than an hour by train from Osaka or Kyoto, Nara is one of the famous day trip destination in the Kansai Region. Situated in the eastern part of the Kansai Region, Nara had once been the capital of Japan from 710 to 794. Nara may not be as exciting as its neighboring cities like Kyoto and Osaka, Nara has its own charm and is home to no less than 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Welcome to Nara

Arriving from major train lines such as JR Nara Station or Nara Kintetsu Station, it would be easy for you to move around as the attractions are just reachable by walking. Just outside JR Nara Station is the tourist information center where you can ask for information and free map.

While walking in the streets of Nara going to the attractions, shops are found along the way. I highly recommend trying the traditional Nara food which is the "Mochi". It is a green colored snack with beans in it. Don't mistake it for a green tea or matcha base food, it is quite different and locals say it is made of grass from Nara.

Walking through the streets in Nara

Here are the things to expect when visiting Nara for a day.

Oh, my Deer, They are Everywhere!

To those people who have been to Nara before, the first thing they associate Nara with is 'Deer'. Deer are found everywhere in Nara. These deer can freely roam the streets and parks of Nara. It has the VIP status making them unharmed and famous in the area. It is also the most iconic animal in Nara. It has been a belief that the deer were the designated messengers of God before Buddhism flourished. With that, it became a tourist attraction in the area and is one of the top reason why travelers visit Nara.

Whats up?

A deer who went shopping.. hehe


Deer in Nara are friendly in nature. They were already used to tourist feeding them with junk foods and petting them but authorities advise tourist to be careful all the time as there were deer attacks in the past making them install a friendly reminder to tourist to be careful which is seen across the area. Deer food is also sold in some shops for 150 yen.

Temples and Parks

There are lots of temple and Parks to visit in Nara. Most of which are just within walking distance with each other and some are free of charge.

The Kofuku-Ji Temple (興福寺) is used to be a family temple of a famous powerful family clan in Nara.  The five-story pagoda which is one of the tallest pagodas in Japan is also a symbol and famous landmark in Nara. Opening hours: Daily 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

five-story pagoda in Nara
The Kofuku-Ji Temple in Nara

The Todai-Ji Temple (東大寺) is the largest wooden structure temple in the world. It is also the main attraction in Nara. There is an entrance to the main temple where you can see a massive Vairocana statue, popularly known as Daibutsu (Great Buddha). It was burned down twice in fires that broke out as result of war. Opening hours: Daily 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. 

Entrance to Todai-ji Temple

Side view

If you happen to visit Nara around March, they are celebrating the Omizutori Festival by that time. It is an annual Buddhist festival in Nara that welcomes Spring with a number of rituals and ceremonies. It's one of Japan's oldest festivals. Each night of the festival large torches is lit outside Nigatsudo Hall at Todaiji Temple in a specular fire show. Viewing this fire display is thought to bring good luck to the audience.

The Nigatsudo Hall is made up entirely wood and it is really a challenge for those men not to burn it. In the past, there were lots of temples already burnt out in Nara. The activity is said to clean the impurity and irradicate the bad things in the world just like lighting a firecracker on a new year for us Filipinos.

People waiting for the Fire show Festival at Nigatsudo Hall
Omizutori Festival in Nara

Initially, I wasn't aware of this festival. I was just lured by other travelers and locals flocking to this area. At first, I really don't know what it is all about until I ask some locals and Policemen who knew how to speak English. Also at the start of the event, they also give an introduction to the said activity in English / Japanese and Chinese, what it is all about and why it is done.

The famous park which is the Nara Park where you will find a lot of deer roaming around. It is a nice place to relax. This is the best place to feed the deer and hang out with them. It also a nice place to do biking.

A pond in Nara going to Nara Park

Deer waiting to be fed in Nara Park

Have you been to Nara? Share your stories and experiences below.

1 comment:

  1. thank you for posting such a thorough post with proper guidance. i was looking for such a help but could not find it anywhere until now