Long ago in Japan, a deity appeared on Mt. Mikasa riding a white deer. For centuries after his visit, deer were seen as messengers of the gods and to this day are protected under a national treasure status. Nara is the present day area where these once sacred creatures roam. They now follow visitors hoping for a treat. The sika deer have velvet-like antlers and appear almost tame as they are eager to receive a free meal from tourists.
Nara is special for more than just its friendly deer population. It also has many shrines, temples, and gardens that are worthy of a visit, some are even UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city is easily walk-able and close to nature with a large park spreading its way through town. Paths cross through the forested area and lead to shrines. Some walkways are lined with hundreds of stone lanterns making a stroll through this green area a magical experience.
Here are a few of my favorite spots around town:
A massive wooden structure housing the largest bronze statue of a Buddha on earth. The photo does not do this place justice. The Buddha is 15 meters tall and the building it is housed in is one of the largest wooden structures in the world.
(Arrive early to enjoy the peaceful and grand qualities of this place.)
A lovely garden with still pools and stone paths that lead around and through each water feature.
A shrine famous for its lanterns. Walk among the hundreds hanging and the thousands of stone ones that line the paths leading to the shrine.
This temple is a world heritage site and has some of the original tiles on its roof from its construction in 718. This is an especially peaceful temple and a little off the tourist track.
This restaurant is known for its traditional sushi common to Nara called Kakinohasushi . Each piece is wrapped in persimmon leaves, appearing like a pretty green gift waiting to be opened. I ate here everyday!
Here are a few more photos from my three days spent in this lovely town.
Nara is an easy day trip from Kyoto but is best enjoyed by staying overnight. It takes a little over an hour to get there from Kyoto depending on which train you catch. I just used Google Maps to find a route and my IC card to pay for the fare when I arrived. From Arashiyama it cost me 1170 JPY. It was very easy.
Once you are there, the city is very easy to navigate by foot. I found a stop at the Nara Visitor Center to be very helpful. They were even doing a tea ceremony demonstration which is held every Wednesday. They have a great free guidebook with a map in it.