Nara

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At a glance

Nara, Japan's first imperial capital between 710 and 794, retains a number of historical treasures ratified by UNESCO's World Heritage. Visitors to Nara are impressed not only by the magnificence of each historical site but the tranquil passage of time.

Although, it is popular as a day-trip destination from Kyoto or Osaka, it is highly recommended that a few days be spent in Nara to fully appreciate its rich culture and serene atmosphere. Experienced travelers love to explore Nara at a leisurely pace at off-peak seasons. One man made a bold comparison "If Kyoto is likened to Paris, Nara is Rome."


Highlights

Todaiji

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The temple is renowned for the temple of Great Buddha. It is worth to take half a day and stroll around the vast area of the temple to enjoy the masterpieces of architectures and statues. Enter through Nandaimon-gate, the main entrance, housing two impressive guardian statues carved by the famous sculptors Unkei and Kaikei in the 13th century. After visiting Great Buddha, take an upward path to Nigatsu-do where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Nara city.

The Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall), Todaji's main temple building, is the world's largest wooden building, although it is only two thirds of the original building in the 8th century.


Kofukuji

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The beautiful five-story pagoda seen from Sarusawa-pond is one of the typical photogenic sceneries representing Nara. First-class collections of Buddhist arts displayed in Treasure Hall (Kokuhodo) and housed in the Eastern Golden Hall (Tokondo) are worth seeing.

Nara Park

Nara park, roughly 4 km east-west and 2 km north-south, is a pleasant place to relax or have a picnic. Generally, Nara park refers to the area encompassing neighboring areas such as Kofukuji, Todaiji, and Kasuga shrine. More than 1200 deer roam around the park. They are believed to be the messengers of the gods. They are so tame that when visitors buy "senbei" (rice cracker) to feed them, bow to ask for it.


Yakushiji

The view of beautiful pagodas and the main hall of Yakushiji temple with Mt. Wakakusa at the backdrop is often recognized as one of the most picturesque photos of Japan in many publications, including the front cover of Voyager Pratique Japon by Michelin. There are several buildings in the Yakushiji compound. East Pagoda is the only surviving architecture from the original construction in the 7th century. Though most buildings were destroyed by fires, we can enjoy the beautiful complex today since the temple has endeavored to restore the buildings since 1976. You can also contribute to the ongoing restoration efforts by sutra-copying, a nice way of trying to attain a peaceful mind at the same time donating to a reconstruction of a temple registered in UNESCO world heritage. In addition to the architectual beauty of the buildings, you should not miss the Buddhist statues housed in these buildings.


Asuka

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Asuka was the political and cultural center of Japan in the 6th and 7th century. A myriad of archaeological sites of the ancient capital harmonize with the preserved provincial scenery. It is located in a rural area which is sometimes referred to as "the spiritual hometown of the Japanese". Asuka is also a great hiking or cycling area since historic sites such as old burial mounds are scattered. You can rent a bicycle at Asuka station or Kashihara-jingu-mae station of Kintetsu line. Asuka is a day-trip destination from Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. "


Access

From Tokyo

  • Tokyo - [2h. 20 min. Shinkansen] - Kyoto - [40 min. Kintetsu or JR*] - Nara
    *Kintetsu runs super express train (Tokkyu) between Kyoto and Nara every 15 min. (usually needs a transfer at Saidaiji station)

From Osaka

  • Taking the JR from Osaka to Nara takes about 50min. From JR Nanba to Nara takes about 35 min.
    *If you would like direct access from the airport (Kansai Int'l airport or Itami airport), there are limousine bus services available. It takes about 85 min. from Kansai int'l airport and about 60 min. from Itami airport.

Note:

Careful planning is recommended. Even though many sites are close to Nara park area, visiting other attractive sites (Asuka or Ikaruga) typically needs a day. Also, you need to keep in mind that some temples in Nara are built in a vast area that it takes time to look around.


Recommended Accommodations


These are a few luxurious ryokans (Japanese style inns) that we recommend. We can book other ryokans or international hotels depending on your travel plan or budget. Please contact us by E-mail (commentsmtj@michitravel.com) or phone (81-3-5213-5040).


Private Tours in/from Nara

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If you would like to take a 1 day Nara Private Tour, click Nara Private Tour.

We will design your own tour of Nara or the surrounding area of Nara (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Himeji, etc) with an English-speaking licensed tour guide.