Nara Prefecture is located in the Kansai area and considered to be one of the oldest places in Japan. It is bordered by four prefectures from east to west, and north to south locations. Foretold to be Kyoto’s extension, Nara offers so much of ancient attractions that are rich in history.
Here are some of the best things that you can do in Nara, be more familiar with the place, and experienced Japanese culture as you’ve never had before.
- 【1】Feed the deer at Nara Park
- 【2】Check out Nara National Museum
- 【3】Tour around Todai-ji
- 【4】Jaunt through Kōfuku-ji
- 【5】Spare some time for Kasuga-taisha
- 【6】Rediscover the Heijokyu Ruins
- 【7】Walk around the famous Isui-en
- 【8】Experience Manyo Botanical Gardens
- 【9】Visit Ukimi-do Hall
- 【10】Enjoy Japanese food at Washokuya Happoh
【1】Feed the deer at Nara Park
|Address||469 Zoshicho, Nara 630-8211, Nara Prefecture|
|Operating Hours||24 hours|
Nara park is about 20 minutes walk from JR Nara Station or 15 minutes from Kintetsu Nara Station. On a good day, it’s a pleasant walk along sanjo dori street. It is also adjacent to two tourist destinations in Nara, Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji.
There are hundreds of deer in this area so if you have food (esp their favorite crackers) in your hands, you should quickly finish feeding them asap. Otherwise, you may find yourself being surrounded or chased by a group of deer.
【2】Check out Nara National Museum
|Name||Nara National Museum|
|Address||50 Noboriojicho, Nara 630-8213, Nara Prefecture|
|Operating Hours||9:30 AM – 5:00 PM|
Nara National Museum is located halfway between Nara JR Station and Todai-ji Temple. The old and new complex buildings are opened to public upon the payment of fee. As there are many nice artifacts displayed inside, it is considered worthwhile to have a look inside if you have time.
There are some permanent exhibitions of national treasures and temporary specialist exhibitions. It has an excellent system of Museum Staff that are knowledgeable about the artifacts. The exhibits change regularly so be sure to look at the flyers at the subway and train stations to find the latest offerings.
【3】Tour around Todai-ji
|Address||406-1 Zoshicho, Nara 630-8211, Nara Prefecture|
|Operating Hours||8:00 AM – 5:00 PM|
This temple is one of the highlights of a visit to Nara and should be included in your itinerary. Although it gets quite busy, there’s still enough space that it doesn’t feel uncomfortably crowded.It is truly worth paying the entrance fee to see the Buddhas inside.
This place gives you the goosebumps because its huge and beautifully preserved. It reminisces classical Tang dynasty architecture, apparently. If you have elderly visitors do be careful with those rather steep climbs to the temple and the uneven cobblestone pavements. The souvenirs sold inside the temple actually are relatively cheaper than other places, if this info helps. The place could be quite crowded in the afternoon but not suffocating.
【4】Jaunt through Kōfuku-ji
|Address||48 Noboriojicho, Nara 630-8213, Nara Prefecture|
|Operating Hours||9:00 AM – 5:00 PM|
Kofukuji was one of seven great temples, located in heart of Nara. It was just enough touch of ancient historical and monumental pretentiousness which can make you in an awe. It’s a 5-minute jaunt from Kintetsu Nara Station to Kofuku-ji Temple. You can pay ¥900 to view both the temple and the relics. The 5 storey Pagoda is free for taking photos from the outside.
The temple site has a number of separate buildings, some that you pay to enter to see their statues. You need to spend more than an hour to explore some of them.
【5】Spare some time for Kasuga-taisha
|Address||160 Kasuganocho, Nara 630-8212, Nara Prefecture|
|Operating Hours||6:30 AM – 5:00 PM|
Kasuga Grand Shrine is a Shinto shrine in the city of Nara. It is established in 768 CE. The path to Kasuga Shrine passes through Deer Park, in which deer can roam freely and are believed to be sacred messengers of the Shinto gods that inhabit the shrine and surrounding mountainous terrain.
The place is stacked with lanterns that are beautifully covered in lichens against a backdrop of an ancient forests, quite breathtaking. You just need to pay an extra 500 yen to enter a more secluded and sacred part of this Shinto temple, which reveres four Shinto deities.
【6】Rediscover the Heijokyu Ruins
|Name||Heijō Palace Remains|
|Address||Sakicho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8577|
|Operating Hours||9:00 AM – 4:30 PM|
Heijokyu is the 1st capital in Nara period that it proved to have external affairs with other countries. It shows a close relationship with China, and had been an important period that Buddhism spread from China to Japan. This palace was lost and covered by rice fields, moreover, a rail crossing in between. However, it was re-discovered in past 30 years, and trying to restore it back with numerous donations.
To get there, you can choose the Kintetsu line(210yen) then walk for 10 mins to get to the site. Take the south exit from kintetsu, you will see the street sign or yellow signs painted on the ground to lead the way. You canthe also catch city bus(210yen) which will drop you off closer. If you can, try to catch the gurutto bus for 100 yen. Gurutto bus has limited stops but it will connect you to the Heijokyu ruins, JR station as well as Nara park. Bus runs every 15-20 mins.
【7】Walk around the famous Isui-en
|Name||Isui-en (Isui Garden)|
|Address||74 Suimoncho, Nara 630-8208, Nara Prefecture|
|Operating Hours||9:30 AM – 4:30 PM|
The garden is so beautiful and tranquil. There is also a restaurant inside. Just sitting there and having a cup of Ocha admiring the scenery is in itself a relaxing activity. It is also walkable distance from Nara Park.
The entry fee to this garden is 900 yen. It entitles you to a free guided tour of the garden as well as entry to the museum. Some people might shun away because of the cost of the entry fee, however, I do feel that this place is a must visit in Nara.
【8】Experience Manyo Botanical Gardens
|Name||Manyo Botanical Garden|
|Address||160 Kasuganocho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8212|
|Operating Hours||9AM – 4:30PM|
Manyo Garden is within Nara park and there are lots of free roaming deer within the park to keep you busy and entertained as you stroll to your destination. If you are going for the wisteria I suggest you check with the Nara City Tourists information centre first. They know what’s available and they speak English.
The entrance fee is around ¥500, I guess it’s reasonably priced. If you are not too keen on walking the distance (2-3 km) from the train station to the shrines, temples and garden, take the shuttle bus (no 1 or 2 loop service, 200+ yen).
【9】Visit Ukimi-do Hall
|Address||1-16-18 Honkatata, Otsu 520-0242, Shiga Prefecture|
|Operating Hours||8:00 AM – 5:00 PM|
Ukimi-do temple is a floating shrine on lake Biwa. Coupled with other sites along lake Biwa it can be incorporated into a day trip from Kyoto.
This temple was very peaceful and tranquil. There was a small stand to purchase talismans and fortunes and informational pamphlets in Japanese or English. I enjoyed sitting on a brick wall nearby to watch turtles swimming in the shallow water. Make sure you check out the ceiling in the temple!
【10】Enjoy Japanese food at Washokuya Happoh
|Address||22 Higashimuki Nakamachi, Nara 630-8215, Nara Prefecture|
11:30 AM – 10:00 PM
Monday – Saturday
11:30 AM – 10:30 PM
The restaurant is very nice inside and they have this private booths at the entrance. The privacy and the A/C while eating added a lot to the experience. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful to the customers.
The menu featured a wide variety of Japanese food including Sushi, Noodle Bowls, rice bowls and more. It was reasonably priced and the food was very good. While it might not be a true foodie or gourmet restaurant, the combination of great service, clean/nice atmosphere for eating and very good food made for an overall excellent experience.