Nara is a very rare city where you can escape the big city lights and get a real feel for traditional Japan. On top of that, you can walk around here with wild deer! The deer in Nara are sacred and highly respected. The deer are comfortable walking around the city- and it will only be minutes after you exit the train station and are greeted by these friendly animals.
Our venture starts from Shin-Omiya Station (from the metro Line). When you come out of the train station head to Nara Park. Immediately you will see a whole herd of deer. You can buy little food wafers from stalls and the street and feed them to the deer (this is a great way to bribe the deer over to you if you wanna take a selfie with them). Be ca
reful not to have a lot of wafers in your hands at once or else the deer won’t leave you alone. You also might wanna keep some wafers for later because you will see deer throughout Nara.
Isui-en Gardens/ Yoshikien Garden
Insui-en garden is said to be a beautiful area that you should dedicate at least an hour to walk around. The gardens cost about 900 Yen to enter but there are the smaller Yoshikien garden right next to it that offers free entrance to tourists (not sure how long this will last).
Unfortunately, Yoshikien Garden is closed from January to February, which is when I was visiting. Since the smaller gardens were closed I decided that it wouldn’t be worth visiting the Ineui-en garden during the winter months, especially since they do not offer a discount. If you are fortunate enough to visit during the spring the gardens are said to be beautiful.
Tōdai-ji Temple temple
From the gardens you can continue making your way to Tōdai-ji temple. This wooden temple is home to one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. The Buddha is simply beautiful with a crown of smaller Buddhas around it. The neat part about the statue is that you can walk all the way around it- instead of just viewing it just from the front. It costs about 500 Yen to enter.
Outside of the temple is a statue that, to be honest, looks a little creepy. But when I went up and read about it I found out that it is a statue of Yakushi Nyorai who is a healing Buddha. You touch a place on the Buddha where you are having trouble and then touch that place on yourself then apparently it will heal. Definitely worth a shot!
From the temple you can make your way to the Kasuga Grand Shrine. Leading up to the shrine from Nara Park is a long pathway lined with stone lanterns- 3000 lanterns to be exact. There are usually many deer hiding in between lanterns as well (see aren’t you glad you kept some wafers).
Once you reach the shrine there is a fee to get in. The interior of the shrine is famous for it’s many gold lanterns but many people choose not to go in, but to just walk around it. The shrine is within a park and there are many smaller shrines surrounding it which makes for a beautiful walk.
This the traditional neighbourhood of Nara. This is a nice area to wander around for there are a lot of tiny shops that sell traditional Japanese items.
In this area I visited a traditional Japanese style house-it was interesting to see. As you can imagine the house was very simple but I didn’t know that it would be so tiny! My head almost touched the roof in some rooms when I stood up- and I am not a tall girl- and the doors were more like doggy-doors. My favourite thing in Naramachi was the traditional medicine shop. There was also tea there to enjoy which helped us warm up.
This temple you will most likely run into by chance on your way back to the train station. It is next to a pretty pond (if you don’t happen to notice the temple). The temple is the most beautiful from the outside so you don’t need to bother paying to go in. Instead you can take a quick wander around before continuing on your way.
Higashimuki Shopping street
Before you know it you will have spent the whole day in Nara and chances are that you will be pretty tired!
If you do have any extra energy, however, you can check out Higashimuki shopping street. It is on the way to Nara station so even if you are exhausted you can still walk through it to take a quick peek. This is a good place for trying new food and buying souvenirs.