Japan: Nara

If you are traveling through Kansai Prefecture I highly recommend checking out Nara Park. Traveling to Nara Park is easy to get to and is a relaxing one-day trip enjoyable for both young and old. Nara Park is located in the center of Nara City. If you hop on the express train from Osaka Station, you’ll arrive at Nara Station in about 45 minutes.

I suggest heading to the information center, buying a one-day bus pass, and grabbing a map of the park. The people at the information center are very friendly and will tell you which bus to hop on. The bus ride to Todai-ji Temple is only a short ride away. Once at the site grounds you will be greeted by deer, lot’s of friendly deer!

As you can imagine Nara Park get’s busier during the warmer seasons. I’ve been to Nara Park in both Winter and Summer and experienced a very different Nara.

In whichever season you decide to visit expect crowds of people, especially in the spring and summer months. For obvious reasons, winter has much less visitors, which has its advantages. The entrance fee to the Todai-ji Temple is  500円.

The Todai-ji temple is the world’s largest wooden structure. Inside the temple you will come face-to-face with a giant Buddha Statue. The Buddha Statue is said to weigh in at about 300 tons, and stands at about 50 feet in height.

You will get a good measure of the Buddha Statue’s true size as you make your way through the temple. There are various artifacts to see and learn from once inside. Upon exiting the temple you have the choice of checking out Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Mt. Wakakusa-yama or returning to the southern gate area to feed and photograph the many beautiful deer in the area. There are various Shika Senbei (Deer Cracker) vendors on-site. Some deer are very eager to get their fill on them senbei! Expect to pay about 150円 for a stack of five senbei.

After leaving this area you can hop back on the bus and head further into the city to do some more sightseeing. There are a few small temples, shrines and various shops in the area that are always welcoming of more guest.

Before heading back to the Nara Station, I highly recommend making your way on foot or hoping back on the bus to get to another major attraction: Kofuku-ji Pagoda. The Kofuku-ji Pagoda in Nara is the second tallest in Japan (To-ji Pagoda in Kyoto is the tallest). There are many deer wandering around the Kofuku-ji area as well.

Afterwards make your way down the steps and go towards the Sarusawa-ike Pond. This is a prime spot to just relax and take in this beautiful sight. You can also follow the path around the pond and watch for various carp and turtles swimming about. This was definitely the highlight of my Nara visit.

The view as night falls is especially beautiful; see if you can catch the reflection of the pagoda on the pond’s surface!

There are a number of shops worth checking out next to Sarusawa-ike Pond, here you can find reasonably priced souvenirs and goodies to munch on.

Nara is an alluring little city offering a lot to its guest. I spent half the day here yet only used up about 2,500円 for the whole trip. There is plenty more to experience, but these are among the highlights of Nara. I hope that you are able to visit and enjoy Nara Park as much as I did!

Happy travels!