Nara Japan – A Pleasant Day Trip
I admit, I almost removed Nara in our places to visit in Japan and if I did, it must have been a big mistake. Fortunately that time, the storm has passed and the weather cooperated. It was a beautiful Tuesday and our last day in Japan. We’re so ready to meet Bambi.
Some facts about Nara… Did you know that Nara was once the capital of Japan? Yeah I didn’t know either. It turns out that the capital of Japan, in its course of history, has been in many locations other than the current one which is Tokyo.
Besides the wild deers roaming around, Nara is home to several shrines, ruins and temples. We visited two of them: Todai-Ji Temple and Kofukuji temple. Then we also went on a side trip to Yoshikien Garden. You can do all of this and more in a day.
Nara Deer Park
Have you seen a deer bow? In Nara those cute deer have learned to bow their heads to ask for food whenever they see a person especially those carrying deer food.
You can see them roaming around the park, crossing the streets, sleeping and some, randomly nipping people’s shirt. You don’t have to be scared though as they are mostly friendly and knows how to interact with people. Just don’t get them angry. Remember to treat these animals with respect as they are protected by the people/government and are considered sacred to some and believed to be the messenger of the gods in Shintoism.
I’ve visited a lot of temples in our travels in Asia but I must say, Todai-Ji Temple in Nara is one of the most fascinating. Coming from the deer park, you will first pass the Nandaimon Gate. It’s a wooden gate guarded by two large statues on each side. From what I’ve researched, they are the Nio Guardian Kings. They were really huge! I feel like I’m on the “Attack of the Titans” or something.
Upon passage through Nandaimon, you’ll see the main hall – the Daibutsuden. It is the world’s largest wooden building and it houses a large bronze statue of Buddha.
Other than the Great Buddha, you’ll also see a smaller Buddha and two Bodhisattva statues on each side.
Outside the temple, there’s a wooden statue of Pindola Bharadvaja or Binzuru. It is said that rubbing a part of the effigy gives the gift of healing.
To enter the hall and see the Great Buddha, you need to pay an admission fee of 500 Yen.
Next, we went on a sidetrip to Yoshikien Garden – just a 5min walk from Todai-Ji Temple. It’s a refreshing scenery from the old temples and deer in Nara. Upon entry, you’ll see a beautiful pond garden surrounded by trees which I think is colorful during autumn season.
Then in a wider area, is the moss garden. The colors and the landscape reminds me of The Shire in the Lord of the Rings. This place is perfect for photo shoots! Best of all, entrance is free for foreigners!
This was once a family temple of the Fujiwara clan in 710. Beside it is a towering 5 story pagoda which is Japan’s second tallest. When I first saw the pagoda, I said to myself ‘I only saw this in the animes I’ve watched like Samurai X and Legend of Aang but now, I’m face to face with one’. It was an amazing feeling to see a pagoda this grand! I love old stuff and the pagoda’s antiquity is its charm.
How to go to Nara
Take the train going to Kintetsu Nara Station and walk about 5 minutes to Nara park. If you’re taking JR train, you’d alight at JR Nara station and it’s around 20 minute walk from there.
In the park premises, there are buses but we opt to just walk around.
Where to eat
There are some restaurants there but if you’re in a budget, there is a 7-11 convenience store inside the Nara prefectural office building across the first park from Kintetsu Nara station.
Add Nara to your Osaka-Kyoto itinerary as for me, it is a must visit. It will only take you one day to explore the whole park. Cute deer, amazing temples and colorful gardens await you!