After a hearty lunch of Gyozas and rice we set off on our journey to visit the world famous World Heritage Site of Nara Park, Nara, about 35km South of Kyoto.
Why go to Nara?
In 1998 the ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara’, including its temples and parks was granted ‘World Heritage’ status by UNESCO. The area is also famous for it being a haven for deers with thousands of them residing in the Nara Park area amongst the visitors. They are so tame and calm to be around. Deer are seen as messengers from the Gods in the Shinto religion are well looked after here, you can be fined ¥1000 for being ‘mean’ to one of them.
How to get to Nara?
Luckily for travellers and tourists Nara is super easy to get to from Kyoto. All you need to do is get to Tofukuji Metro station and hop on the JR line that goes directly to Nara. You can either get on the rapid train which has 6 stops and takes 42 minutes or the local train that stops at every station and takes just over an hour. One way tickets are only ¥710 (£5.20ish) or free if you have a Japan Rail Pass.
Once we arrived at Nara station we had the option of either getting a ¥210 bus straight to the main temple area or walking about a kilometre. We got the bus as the temperature was around 36 degrees but was gradually decreasing.
We arrived at the long path that leads towards the entrance of Todai Ji temple. This large Buddhist complex served as one of Naras seven ‘Great Temples’ and is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The entrance fee to the temple is ¥400, but it is well wrote it to see the might of the worlds largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana in the sacred ‘Great Buddha Hall’.
Once you’ve spent a couple of hours admiring the complex there are an abundance of other shrines, temples and halls to see in Nara Park. These are my highlights and a suggested list;
Once you’re templed out, head West out of Nara Park and grab some dinner. Make your way towards Higashimuki Nakamachi where there is a hoard of shops, reasonably priced restaurants and bars, all set in a traditional Japanese neighbourhood.
One of the great things about visiting Japan is the amount of festivals, events and celebrations are constantly ongoing throughout the year. Whilst we were in Nara, the 18th To-kae celebration was being held and participated in by the residents of the city and from people further afield. During the celebration, 20,000 candles are lit up by participants around the Nara Park area. The term ‘Toka’ refers to the flower shaped remains after a candle wick burns out. The remains are believed to bring good fortune. To-Kae is not the only ceremony that involves fire in Nara. In ancient times the Japanese believed that you could pray directly to your deities through fire and delve deep into your own soul.
Budget for Nara – this is exactly what I spent on my day trip to Nara, to give you a rough idea.
- Transport there and back from Kyoto £12
- Attractions £5
- Transport in Nara £2
- Souvenirs £4
- Coffee and snack £5
- Dinner £7.50
And that’s it folks, tomorrow I’ll be visiting Gion, home of the Geisha.