If you’re visiting Japan and more precisely Kyoto then one day in Nara is a must to add to your bucket list. This Japanese city located only 40min away from Kyoto by train charm a lot of locals and tourist for its uniqueness and beautiful architecture.
Nara is well known as the free-roaming deer city, as well as its massive Buddhist temple, many Shinto shrine. Nara is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kyoto is a quaint city and pretty much a window into the past. Nara is an extension of this as you get the opportunity to delve further into ancient time and get a peek at what was once the first capital of Japan, so follow my Nara one-day itinerary for a fun day trip with the best things to do!
As I said above Nara is an extremely popular day trip to take from Kyoto if you’re visiting, it’s worth taking one day one day to explore. You won’t regret it!
Tips: If you’re travelling around Japan and have the JR Pass make sure to take the JR Nara Line from Kyoto this way you don’t have to pay the transportation and make the most of your JR Pass!
That being said, every time I took the shinkansen I loved it. It’s fast, on time and clean. Definitely my favourite train rides.
Nara One Day Itinerary: Best Things To Do
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Once you step out of the train it’s pretty easy to find Nara Park where most of the landmarks are and where you’ll stay during the day.
Even if you don’t have a GPS all you need to follow the various signs to find the numerous shrines and naturally, the deer.
It takes a bit of walk but nothing too dramatic that give you the opportunity to peek into the city on your way to Nara Park!
One of the main landmark of the city where you can find most of the deer. They are wandering freely in the city and have been established here for 1000 years. It’s pretty amazing to think that humans and deer have been able to live together for such a long time.
The park is pretty big and takes a while to explore especially if you’re like me and stop to check how adorable the deer are.
Feeding the deer is forbidden, if you want to do so you have to buy some individual biscuits for them, as you can see in the picture above, they’re in between 150 yens (as pictured above) and 200 yens (the price I paid this year 2020) and are available in most shops or little stall.
Let’s be honest the deer are so used to human presence and the thousands of tourist they see every day, they’re uninterested in you unless you got foods.
However, one fun fact is since they’re accustomed to the human presence they learned to “bow” which makes them seem to be very polite and extra cute. If you bow they’ll bow back!
Unfortunately, it’s not that rare to see some wounded deer unfortunately, it might seem a little too touristy to buy Shika senbei but the profit of the biscuit feed them and actually help to take care of them.
Nara park entrance is free and opens 24 hours 7 days a week. Only some shrines within the park (which we will see below) charges a small fee to visit them and have opening hours.
KOFUKUJI TEMPLE AND PAGODA
Fojukuki Temple is composed of several buildings and also known to be one of the most beautiful museums of sacred sculpture if you’d like to see another side of the Japanese culture.
There’s also not one but two pagodas there. The main one being the five stories Pagoda located east of the southern great gate, the second one, located at the west of the gate is the three-storied pagoda.
There are two different prices:
A joint ticket for the Great Buddha Hall at Todaiji and the Todaiji Museum is 800 yen.
Only 500 yen to enter the Great Buddha Hall.
Todai-ji is located a bit further north of Nara Park. It is one of the most lively temples from Nara as it is also the most famous one. Another landmark of Nara is Todai-ji temple, where you can find the biggest bronze Buddha statue in Japan sitting inside the temple, it’s pretty impressive when you enter the shrine.
It is also surrounded by the two more idols on each side.
If you’re collecting Goshuin it’s also a great place to get one for your book to add it to your collection!
The price of the goshuin at Todai-ji is 300 yen.
After you visited Todai-ji Shrine you can go on with another part of the complex only a couple minutes away. Nigatsu-dô Shrine is located on the bottom of the Mount Wakakusa which makes it a great point of view over the city.
The wooden building is also beautiful in itself, it has been built on stilts in order to adapt to the mount back in VIII century, however, a fire ravaged the complex in 1667 which was rebuilt two years later.
Nigatsu-dô means the second month and stands for the annual ceremony of fire that is held at this time of the year called “Omizutori“.
SHOP FOR SOUVENIRS IN HIGASHIMUKI SHOPPING AREA
Higashimuki the shopping arcade of Nara.
Japanese loves shopping so, of course, you can find plenty of shos even in Nara, the city has a shopping arcade.
You can find a lot of traditional souvenirs there if you’re looking to bring something unique as a memory from your trip or as a gift. The mascot of Nara is without a surprise an adorable deer, it can be found on cookies boxes or socks and many more items!
It’s also a great spot if you’re looking to eat or drinks!
I’ve been twice to Nara during my trip one time I took a day trip from Tokyo and the second time, the most recent, it was from Kyoto. Both time I loved Nara’s charm and beautiful architecture, it never gets old.
Although it can get quickly crowded being so close to Kyoto and quite prone to mass tourism, so I’d recommend visiting during off seasons if you can.
It shows you how past and present, culture and architecture blend so well together in Japan. That’s a wrap on my Nara in one-day Itinerary, I hope you enjoyed it!
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Nara One Day Itinerary: Best Things To Do