With my trip to Japan coming to a close, I chose to take a day trip out of Kyoto and explore its neighboring city of Nara. I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to visit Nara’s temples and most importantly, the deers!
For a few brief decades from 710 to 784, the capital of Japan was located in present day Nara City. The influence of the successive emperors of the era can still be witnessed today through the countless of surviving historical Buddhist images and buildings scattered all over the city.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Getting around Nara is fairly simple as the city isn’t very large. It’s a 1 hour train ride from Kyoto and I arrived early in the morning at the JR Nara Station. From there, I walked to every site, although buses are readily available.
WHAT TO SEE
Before touring the city, I suggest stopping by the Nara Visitor Center, located one block east of JR Nara Station, and picking up a copy of a Nara City Sightseeing Guide map or you can download the PDF version here!
- Tofukuji Temple and Five-Story Pagoda – Originally founded in the 7th century, the Five-Story Pagoda is a symbol of Nara City. The present structure was rebuilt 600 years ago after it was burned down five times.
- Nara National Museum – This is the second national museum in Japan in 1895 in Nara Park. Today, the building is open to the public as Nara Buddhist Structure Hall.
- Todaiji Temple – Considered the largest wooden structure in the world, the temple is most famous for housing the Great Buddha (Daibutsu).
- Nara Park – The vast green area, known as Nara Park, is located in the central part of Nara City, with origins dating back to the 8th century. Approximately 1200 wild deer roam around freely around the park, and their antlers are removed for safety reasons. Most are harmless and friendly, while a few are more aggressive (one actually tore off a piece of paper bag and ate it!) Their behavior remind me of the men in my life. Nevertheless, I enjoyed feeding them Shika Senbei (deer crackers). They are so polite that they even bow when they ask for Shika Senbei!
Why are there so many deer in the park?
“According to legend, when Kasuga Taisha Shrine was founded as a family shrine for the Fujiwaras, a dominant aristrocrat clan in the 8th century, they invited a mighty god from Kashima Shrine. The god is said to have come to Nara riding on a white deer Since then, deer have been respected and protected as divine messengers by local people.”