Japan Diaries: A Quick Guide to Nara

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Whilst staying in Kyoto we were encouraged to take an hour long trip out to the city of Nara. It’s a city well known for originally being the first permanent capital of Japan (established in the year 710), so is full to the brim with history, age old culture, and some of the oldest and largest temples in the country.

There’s also one heck of an additional bonus…if you’re a fan of Bambi.

Nara is home to 1,600 acres of park land which in turn is home to the Nara National Museum, and a Toda-ji, where the largest wooden building in the world houses a 50 foot tall statue of Buddha.

Impressive enough as that is, (and here’s the Bambi part) Nara Park is home to over 1000 free roaming deer, who in ancient history were considered in Shinto to be messengers of the Gods.

The deer are supernaturally tame, and greet you promptly as you approach them. They roam even as close as the local shops, cross the zebra crossings, and sit gloriously basking on ancient monuments. It’s seriously so hard to believe until you experience it.

One major reason behind their ever trusting and sociable nature may be down to the fact that you can but “Deer crackers” from the local shops to feed them.

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For  as little as 100yen (about 70p) you can have a pack of 6 crackers to feed your new friends, and experience them pulling your shirt, biting your bum, and pretty much doing anything to get the most attention out of you with your hands full as possible.

The deer have also learned to bow for a cracker too (See me and the little lady below, there?). You did absolutely read that right: Nara deer bow their heads adorably for a cracker.

If you want to catch the buses around Nara you’ll need to grab yourself a separate travel pass, called the “Kansai Thru Pass”, which gives you access to bus travel around Nara for however many days you choose to pay for. More on this and other points to note on getting around such places in Japan can be read HERE in my quick guide to Japanese transport.

The Toda-ji

When you’re done making Bambi friends, as I mentioned before, there’s a 50 foot Buddha to track down, and a whole lot of lovely parkland to explore. Heading over to the Toda-ji you will find him, and again, you won’t entirely believe what you’re witnessing.

The wonder behind how such a guy came to be is just too much. You feel like such a pea against a mighty…wine bottle or something (a very, very wonderful and jaw droppingly perfect wine bottle).

The grounds around the site there are pristine, and gentle in atmosphere, regardless of how popular the “attraction” becomes if you’re edging around the place midday time. Best to visit a little toward closing time (so any time between 3-5pm).

So glad we took the time to visit Nara. After lots of snuffley nose cuddles, it was back to Kyoto for a few nights before heading onward to Hakkone National Park.

If you haven't caught up with my thoughts and experiences in Kyoto, my post is right HERE.

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