Nara: More Than a Place With Deer

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Tags: gourmetkansaimuseumnaraparkshoppingtemples

Nara 奈良 is located in the Kansai region of Japan, and is less than an hour away from Kyoto and Osaka. It is generally well-known for its deer attraction, but there is more than it meets the eye. Nara has some of Japan’s best temples, shrines, fine gardens, and museums.

Since it is autumn, you could snap photos of those beautiful brown and red hues. Let’s start by exploring what you can do in Nara.


1. Zen at Kofukuji 興福寺

The photo below is a Buddhist temple in Nara that used to be one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. Kofukuji consists of numerous significant buildings and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed as the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara”. The five-storey pagoda is the second tallest in Japan.

Directions:
By walking: About 5-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station or 20-minute walk from JR Nara Station
By bus: From JR Nara Station, take the clockwise running loop bus number 2 or the bus bound for Kasuga Taisha and get off at Kencho-mae stop.


2. Feed the beauties in Nara Park

As you walk towards the temples and park, you can see beautiful deer everywhere. Bring along some deer crackers with you if you want to feed them. It bows to you to be fed!

TIPS:
Try not to carry plastic shopping bag or paper bag with you. Deer will think that there are food in the bag and may come and “attack” you by biting or tearing off your bag.


3. Learn about Buddhist Art at Nara National Museum

Located inside Nara Park itself is a museum displaying Buddhist art. If you love history and learning about religion, do spend some time here.

Nara National Museum
Opening Hours | 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM (more details here)
Closed on Mondays
Entrance Fee | ¥ 520


4. Take a breath of fresh air at Yoshikien Garden 吉城園

This small garden is named after the Yoshikigawa River, a small river beside the garden. Inside are three different grounds: the pond garden, the moss garden and the Tea Ceremony Flower Garden.

Admission: Free for foreign visitors (show your passport at the counter)

Yoshikien Garden
Opening Hours | 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (more details here)
Entrance Fee | ¥250

Directions:
Yoshikien Garden is 15 minutes walk from Kintetsu Nara Station. From JR Nara Station, just take the frequently departing buses bound for Aoyamajutaku or Kunimidai-hachichome to Oshiagecho bus stop


5. Visit Isuien Garden 依水園

Right next to Yoshikien Garden is another beautiful Japanese garden called Isuien. There are two parts of the garden – the front garden and a rear garden. There are also tea houses in the rear garden.

Isuien Garden
Opening Hours | 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Closed on Tuesdays (except in April, May, October and November; New Year holidays)
Entrance Fee | ¥900

Directions:
From JR Nara Station, just take the frequently departing buses bound for Aoyamajutaku or Kunimidai-hachichome to Oshiagecho bus stop. Isuien Garden is next to Yoshikien Garden.


6. Zen in Todaiji 東大寺

Todaiji is also known as the Great Eastern Temple – one of Japan’s most famous and historical temple. The main hall, Daibutsuden or also known as the Big Buddha Hall, is the world’s largest wooden building that housed one of the largest bronze statues Buddha in the country. Feel free to spare some quality time to tour around a bit and meditate in the main hall.

 

Directions:
Located on the north of Nara Park, Todaiji is about 30 minutes walk from Kintetsu Nara Station or 45 minutes walk from JR Nara Station.

Daibutsuden Hall
Opening Hours | 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM (Nov to Feb); 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Mar); 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM (Apr to Sep); 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM (Oct)
Entrance Fee | ¥500

Todaiji Museum
Opening Hours | 9:30 AM to 4:30 (Nov to Feb); 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM (Mar); 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM (Apr to Sep); 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM (Oct)
Entrance fee | ¥500 (Todaiji Museum), ¥800 (Todaiji Museum & Daibutsuden)


7. Find the hidden udon in Nara

What’s this? A small pouch in clear broth?

Mentouan 麺闘庵 is a shop famous for its kinchaku kitsune udon. The Japanese word ‘kinchaku’ means pouch, and ‘kitsune’ means fried beancurd. The udon is placed inside the pouch-shaped kitsune.

It was a simple yet filling dish. The udon’s texture was chewy and it adsorbed the essence of the umami broth. Try the curry broth if you fancy a stronger and richer taste.

Mentouan 麺闘庵
Address | 30-1 Hashimotocho, Nara
Opening Hours | 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Closed on Tuesdays

Directions:
About 5 minutes walk from Kintetsu Nara Station


8. Watch the mochi making process at Nakatanidou 中谷堂

Sometimes, workers from this shop pounds mochi at a dramatic speed with wooden pestle along with cheers and shouts at the shop front. You will hardly miss this place because visitors will flock here to watch the mochi pounding process.

A must try from this shop is the super soft and warm fresh Yomogi Mochi. The sweetness of the red bean paste filling was just right; the texture was so awesome and it gave me an unforgettable moment just by eating it. Honestly, this is the best mochi I ever had! It is only priced at ¥130 per piece.

Nakatanidou 中谷堂
Address | 29 Hashimotocho, Nara
Opening Hours | 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM


9. Shop at Higashimuki Shopping Arcade

Located just close to Kintestu Nara Station, this is a covered shopping arcade that offers a good selection of restaurants and souvenirs to bring home.

Higashimuki Shopping Arcade
Address | 15 Higashimuki-nakamachi, Nara

Directions:
About 3 minutes walk from Kintetsu Nara Station

Ivy Chang
Ivy Chang
A girl who has wanderlust and love travel very much. She deeply falls in love with Japan ever since she stepped onto the "land of rising sun" in year 2002. She always wishes to explore more about Japan; the beauty of its art and culture, people and spirit, food and language. She finds that every prefecture in Japan is very unique and different from one another and always has a dream to visit all 47 prefectures in Japan.

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