Nara: Day Trip from Osaka or Kyoto, Japan
One of the best things we did during our stay in Osaka was to go on a day trip to Nara.
Nara is home to temples, shrines and beautiful gardens, but its main claim to fame are the resident deer who roam the streets, bow for treats, and amuse visitors.This destination is hardly a well-kept secret and you are guaranteed to find crowds around the main sights, but don’t let that deter you from visiting. I’m sharing our 1-day Nara travel itinerary featuring historic temples, secret gardens, and delicious street food!
How to get to Nara?
Nara is a straightforward excursion from metropolis and metropolis with multiple train choices to induce you there.
From Osaka, you can take the Kintetsu Nara Line Or if you have a JR Pass, you can take the JR Kanjo-Yamatoji Lines departing from JR Osaka Station and arriving at JR Nara Station. We went with the first option since we travelled without a JR Pass.
From Kyoto, you can take the Kintetsu Nara Line. Or if you’re a JR Pass holder, you can take the JR Nara Line departing from JR Kyoto Station and arriving at JR Nara Station – just make sure you get on the express!
Let’s start with Nara Park since this is where many of the city’s attractions are located and where you’re most likely to do your sightseeing.
Within this public park, you’ll find temples, shrines, museums, and walking trails. The park also happens to be home to deer who roam freely.
Know that admission to the park is free, though you’ll have to pay for a few select attractions within the park grounds.
The main attraction in Nara Park is Todai-ji Temple, which was once the world’s largest wooden building, this temple also happens to house the largest bronze statue of a Buddha!
Most of the Northern part of Nara Park is covered by Todaiji’s grounds which includes attractions such as Todaji Musuem, Nigatsudo Hall, Hokkedo Hall, Kaidano Hall, Shosoin Storehouse, former site of Lecture Hall and site of fomer east pagoda.
Feeding The Deers of Nara
Now let’s cite the most draw to Nara: the deer! Nara’s deer hold a very special status in the city.
Local traditional knowledge has it that Takemikazuchi, the god of thunder, once appeared on Mount Wakakusa (just up the hill from Nara Park) riding a white deer, and thus the deer inhabiting the surrounding forest were deemed sacred messengers of the gods and today they are seen as a national treasure.
The quickest way to befriend the deer is with treats, and thankfully there are lots of licensed vendors selling crackers specifically made for the deer. These are called ‘shika senbei’ and you can get them for ¥150.
Be warned that the deer can sniff out those crackers whether you stuff them in your pockets or hide them in your bag, so once you have them in hand, prepare for a herd of deer to approach. The deer are pretty good about bowing
Seasonal Soft-Serve Ice cream
Another sweet treat that we have a tendency to enjoyed in Japan was soft-serve frozen dessert.
They had some seasonal flavours to choose from like sakura and white peach, as well as the classics like matcha, vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate.
I wasn’t too sure about the sakura ice cream (what do cherry blossoms taste like, anyway?), but it was surprisingly sweet with a light floral aroma. Definitely worth trying!
We tried to see as much as we could in a day, but Nara Park is massive and we barely scratched the surface.
If we’d had more time and we’d known how much there was to see. This destination would make the perfect weekend escape or romantic getaway.
If you do decide to stay overnight, Nara has a mix of hostels and hotels – the place is worth experiencing at least once during your travels in Japan!