A Day Trip to Nara
Nara is located close to Kyoto and Osaka, two cities that we visited during our one-month trip to Japan. We had a feeling that there might be more that we would want to see in Kyoto so we took a day out of our week in Osaka to visit the lovely town of Nara. The trip from Osaka takes about one hour and costs 10 dollars one way.
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Along with Kyoto, Nara is the prettiest Japanese town that we have seen. It is mostly known for its park that counts several temples to visit and is home to lots and lots of deer. At least a whole day is necessary to explore it and make the most of it without rushing.
The park is located in the centre of the town, about five-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station where we arrived. It is a very pretty area scattered with temples and shrines, adding to its peaceful atmosphere.
Deer were traditionally considered as the messengers of gods. Today, they are still respected and protected and are roaming freely on the whole property. They are tamed enough to be approached and even fed (you can buy appropriate food on site). Sometimes they will even bow at you to be fed.
We started our walk through the park with a visit of The Great Buddha Hall. This place and several other buildings are part of Todai-Ji temple, which is the most popular attraction in Nara and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After paying the 500 yen entrance fee (for the Great Buddha hall alone), we walked towards a sign saying “free guides”, expecting some kind of flyer or booklet. We ended up with a tour guide who showed us around and explained history and other random facts about the place.
The Great Buddha Hall, which is the world’s largest wooden construction, is home to a bronze 49 feet high statue of Buddha. Both have been rebuilt several times after earthquakes and fires over the years and remain very impressive. The hall also counts a number of ornaments and other statues that are worth a look.
We then walked to another beautiful structure of Todai-Ji temple, Nigatsudo Hall. Located uphill, it can be visited for free and you can make the most of wonderful views of the park and other buildings from its terrace. We made sure we took our time to admire all the ornaments and pretty lanterns all around the building.
When we left the hall, we enjoyed a stroll through the park to find ourselves in the middle of a herd of deer ready to be fed. I was not adventurous enough to stay so close to them for too long but Simon was and he was able to shoot great pictures of the animals.
The last place we visited was Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. The entrance of the site is marked by a pretty and traditional red tori and you will meet a lot of deer again on the path that leads to the shrine. The structure is beautiful and we particularly loved all the traditional lanterns and the wisteria trees. The forest around it also gives it a very serene atmosphere.
After all this walking, it was getting late and we had dinner at an Indian restaurant (Japanese Indian naans are the best!) on our way back to Nara train station.
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