After spending a day in Kyoto, we felt like we had seen everything that we were planning on. Kyoto is also such a big and busy city that we just wanted to get away from the crowds.
Nara, a small city that had served as Japan’s first capital, was a 30 minute train ride from Kyoto and seemed like a good option. So, after a quick breakfast at Kyoto station, we used our Japan Rail passes and hopped onto the local train that ran between Kyoto and Nara. Although the local train wasn’t fancy like the Shinkansen bullet trains, it still made our journey easy and fun.
Once we got to Nara, we stepped into the Tourist Information Center at the train station to figure out what we could cover in a day. The helpful agent there handed us a map and told us that it would be worthwhile to walk around the Nara-koen park area for the day and check out the Todaiji temple. Sounded like a plan to us.
Just as we were about to leave, she handed us a brochure with a picture of “Nara’s Beautiful Deer” on the cover. Hmmm. Not quite what we had in mind but this should be interesting.
We started our Nara tour by walking 10 minutes through Nara’s main strip – an interesting mix of old shops and restaurants with malls hidden away in the alleyways.
It wasn’t long before we started seeing signs of the Nara that we had come to see.
Our first stop was Kofuku-ji’s Five Storied Pagoda, Japan’s 2nd tallest pagoda that eclipsed everyone that walked by it.
And then, a few steps from the pagoda as we walked towards the Todaiji temple, we knew what the tourist agent meant by the deer.
They were everywhere!
Walking beside the locals, posing by the tourists, relaxing by the temples, sitting by the busy roads – The deer were everywhere.
The tourist brochure had the following quote: “Nara’s deer eats grass and leaves – but their favorite food is deer crackers”
That’s right! Deer Crackers – or as we soon found out crack for deer!
As soon as the deer noticed deer crackers in the hands of a tourist, they pounced upon them right away.
After making it past the deer, we reached our next stop- Todaiji Temple. Having seen all the impressive temples in Kyoto, we both felt that this would be just another temple. Man, were we wrong.
The Todaiji temple is an awe-inspiring sight.
The Todaiji Temple is the largest wooden structure in the world and houses the Daibutsu-den (Hall of the Great Buddha).
After being thoroughly impressed by the Todaiji Temple, we decided to walk through the rest of Nara-koen on our way to the Kasuga Taisha shrine.
The path leading up to the Kasuga Shrine is very impressive route; through the serene forest along a path lined with hundreds of lanterns.
After checking out the shrine, we were hungry and exhausted. We had read about a great little shabu-shabu (kinda like hot pot) restaurant, so we set out to find it. Unfortunately for us, the restaurant was hard to find – it had no signs in English. But we were determined so we went up and down the street trying to match the Japanese letters on the signs till we found the place at last.
We were not disappointed. It turned out to be a great lunch. Some great shabu shabu and some kobe beef.
Not a bad way to end a great day in beautiful Nara.