Nara is the perfect destination for a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto on your trip to Japan. As a former capital of Japan, Nara has a rich cultural heritage. For a traveler, Nara has lots to offer with beautiful temples, one of the world’s largest Buddhas a lively deer park and your usual fanfare of Japanese cuisine. I spent 1 day there as I left my road trip buddies behind in after a thrilling 10 day road trip ending at UNESCO’s Koyasan, where Shingon Buddhism was founded.
It is very easy to get to Nara by train and the info booths at the Nara train station have excellent English. If you are up for a big walking day you can easily do a day trip to Nara from Kyoto or Osaka. You can enjoy visiting all Seven Great Temples or other points of interest in Nara but whatever you do make sure you visit Nara!Visit Nara Deer Park
For many people #1 thing to do in Nara is visit the deer park. Fortunately many of the other attractions are inside the deer park! You’ll find hundreds of mostly tame Nara Deer roaming freely inside. Nara Park is one of the oldest parks in Japan having been created in the 1300’s at the base of Wakakusa. Ancient temples and Buddhas should be the main attraction in Nara but frankly the deer usually steal visitor’s hearts.
Getting to Nara Deer Park
Nara Deer Park is a short 10 minute walk from the Nara Train Station. When coming out of the train you’ll take the right exit and walk straight along a walking street. Down the stairs from the station you can stop in the Nara Tourist Info Center station for a map, free WiFi or to ask any questions.
Nara Japan Points of Interest
Tōdai-ji Temple (Giant Freaking Buddha)
Tōdai-ji is one of the original Seven Great Temples and hosues the world’s largest bronze buddha! I’ve seen plenty of Buddha statues after traveling around Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and more and this one is by far the most impressive I’ve ever seen. The building itself is the largest wooden building in the world. It costs about 500 yen to enter the complex and wandering through the building is well worth it!
Kasuga-taisha was one of my favorite places in all of Nara. The shrine is part of a complex towards the back of Nara Park with brightly painted orange buildings and gates. A number of priests still live at the shrine and can be seen walking around in traditional clothing. You’ll find beautifully designed lanterns and more all surrounded by nature with occasional deer strolling through!
Getting to Nara
Getting to Nara from Kyoto or Osaka
~ 1 hour ride (800+ yen)
~1 hour ride (700+ yen)
Getting to Nara from Tokyo
Bullet Train (Shinkansen)
~3 hour ride (10,000+ yen)
~8 hour ride (2300+yen)
~8 hour ride (4000+ yen)
Well, you’re in Japan and they did INVENT Pokemon right? If you haven’t tried Pokemon Go yet then this is the perfect place to give it a shot. You’ll find free WIFI all around Nara Park so if you’d prefer to just check your email that works too.
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Eat Japanese Street Food
Eating Japanese food is half of the reason that I visited. You can find dozens of delicious Japanese foods in Nara but one of my favorite parts is how accessible the street food was. Vendors are located near many of the temples and park entrances for you to buy anything from a snack to a full meal.
If you’re walking to Nara Park from the train station you’re sure to pass Kōfuku-ji. Its a beautiful temple with a massive 5 story pagoda and lots of other great architecture. This is the first spot that I saw a deer and that made strolling the temple grounds even more exciting!
Hōryū-ji is the oldest wooden building in the world and another of the Seven Great Temples. Sadly I didn’t have a chance to stop by Hōryū-ji but everyone I spoke to said I missed out. Add it to your list but be sure that you plan extra time to see it since this temple is a bit farther from Nara Park or Nara Station.
Feed the Deer
I chose not to feed the deer in Nara but most visitors enjoy the experience. “Deer cookies” can be bought from locals throughout the park for 150Yen /stacks. When you feed the deer be ready for an onslaught. They know you’ve got more than one and before you know it there’ll be a whole herd coming over to sniff up some crubs.
What to See in one day in Nara
- Nara Deer Park
Nara sightseeing is some of the best I’ve ever seen. Make sure you take a day trip to Nara if you’re visiting Kyoto, Osaka or Tokyo! The cultural history in Nara is amazing and the city is such a change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Osaka, Tokyo or even Kyoto.