If you are a history fan then Nara Japan is the ideal historical city to kick off your historical journey in the East. It was the initial permanent capital of Japan, but more importantly, you will find not one but eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites here. Nara also has the highest number of buildings classified as National Treasures of the country. One would think with all cherished possessions Nara Japan should be a top tourist destination. Well, that is not the case. The culturally splendid Kyoto is a far more tourist favorite than Nara. Nevertheless, Nara is a radiant jewel anxiously waiting for exploration especially if you are visiting the Kansai region in Japan.
Daibutsu or also known as the Great Buddha is a striking landmark in Nara. It is inside the high temple of Todai-ji. The Todai-ji Temple is one of the world’s single largest wooden structures, a main attraction in Nara and definitely a very impressive site. It welcomes guests daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm.
The next UNESCO heritage designated site that impresses and fascinates visitors is the Horyu-ji pagoda (A pagoda is a tiered tower with multiple eaves). Featuring five floors, it truly is the country’s oldest pagoda as well as the oldest existence extant timber building worldwide. One exceptional feature of Horyu-ji is the Golden Hall or Kon-do, whose beginnings date back around 670 AD.
Another temple and pagoda worth mentioning is the 600-year old Kōfuku-ji Temple, also with five levels. It actually is the second tallest pagoda in the country, standing at about 50 meters. At some stage in the 8th century, the original temple from Kyoto was relocated here. The Kōfuku-ji Pagoda is a symbol of toughness in Nara. Despite being burned down on five instances through history it stands today as a symbol of endurance. The pagoda is open daily for visitors, from 9:00am – 5:00pm.
Like the majority of Nara’s prominent landmarks, you can find Kōfuku-ji and Todai-ji inside the Nara Kōen Park. If there is a single place in Nara that your time permits you to explore, it definitely should be Nara Kōen (Nara Park). The park offers a great hiking tourist destination because of its vast eco-friendly space. This is not a strenuous hike, as you can basically wander leisurely around the grassy park.
Nara Park is home to the mercenary deer or Sika Deer, so don’t be startled if you see several during your walk. The deer population is considered divine and sacred because they are guarded envoys of the god from Kashima Shrine. These days, excursionists may feed the deer with deer crackers known as Shika Senbei. After temple hopping at the park, consider exploring the vibrant and colorful Higashimuki Shopping Street. Located beside Kintetsu Nara Station, this well-known shopping street, which stretches 250 meters, entertains people with its large amount of vendors and restaurants.
Nara City is compact and you can easily explore nearly the whole city in a very short time. It is for this reason why nearly all tourists who base themselves in Kyoto opt for a day excursion to Nara. This day trip itinerary is even more convenient due to the superb fast train service linking the two cities. The journey to Nara from Kyoto typically takes under hour via the Miyakoji rapid service. The various other interesting parts of the city include the western section called Nishinokyo and southwest part labeled as Ikaruga.