A Day Trip to Nara
<Backlog alert: This trip was made back in 2014. Some details and information may be outdated>
Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan established back in the year 710. It houses many significant cultural and historical treasures which are somewhat concentrated in one area making it a perfect day trip destination from Osaka or Kyoto (both places are less than an hour’s train ride away).
I followed the walking course as recommended by Japan’s tourism board. I did cut a few attractions out though due to insufficient time since I’m naturally a slow traveller due to the distraction of photo taking.
Coming in from Kyoto, I arrived at the Kintetsu-Nara station and headed to the Sarusawa-Ike Pond as planned. It was a beautiful spring day with some fantastic weather for a day out.
If you look closely you can see the tortoises that are sunbathing on the log.
Nearby is the Kofukuji Temple. There are many buildings in the temple grounds such as the To-kondo (East Golden Hall) and Five Storied Pagoda.
Visitors saying a prayer and ringing the bell at the To-kondo.
This is the Nan’endo (South Octaganal Hall).
Next stop was the Yoshikien Garden. This is a lovely and peaceful garden. There were not many other visitors when I visited so I had much of the place to myself. Perfect for getting away from the throngs of tourists outside.
The best part was entrance for foreign visitors is free! (250 yen fee apply for locals).
Finally, we come to the mother of all attractions in Nara – Todaiji Temple. The main hall, Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) is the largest wooden building in the world. It houses one of the largest bronze statues of Buddha in Japan.
There seemed to be some grand event in Todaiji when I visited. There was a big procession of monks and the religious into the temple. I never did find out what the event was though.
Those shoes do not look comfortable. Imagine having to negotiate that steep flight of stairs.
Police personnel helping with crowd control as the procession of monks and religious exit the temple after the event.
After the event was over, I went inside the temple. Here’s a closer look of the towering bronze statue of Buddha.
One of the pillars in the hall has a hole at the bottom. The story goes that if you can pass through the hole you will be granted enlightenment in your next life. The hole is rather small though so it’s mostly children having a go at it but that doesn’t deter some adults from trying… and getting hilariously stuck in the process.
I passed by the Nigatsu-do (Hall of the Second Month) on the way out of Todaiji. This is a temizuya where worshippers wash their hands and mouth before approaching the building of worship. I really liked the drawing and the dragon fountain head.
The light was too good not to stop for a few photos!
Now, we come to Kasuga Taisha, Nara’s most celebrated Shinto shrine. It’s famous for its bronze lanterns which have been donated by worshippers.
Blooming wisteria flowers found inside the shrine.
Finally, I ended the day at Nara Park to do some deer watching. Similar to Miyajima in Hiroshima, deer roam freely in Nara as they are considered sacred messengers of the Shinto deities. The deer in Nara have actually learned to bow when asking for food! Even the animals are polite in Japan.
It was a good day trip to Nara and I would highly recommend you take a day to visit Nara if you are staying in Osaka or Kyoto.