Nara City, located in the Kansai region of Japan, is a treasure trove of ancient history, culture, and natural beauty. There are so many delightful things to do and see in Nara that it can be challenging to know where to start. To help you make the most of your time here, we have put together this list of the ten most exciting things to do in Nara.
Explore Nara’s Rich History
Nara, located in the Kansai region of Japan, is a city steeped in history and culture. From ancient temples to sprawling palace ruins, there is so much to explore in this fascinating city.
Visit Todai-ji Temple
There are plenty of impressive temples in Nara, but none are quite as iconic as Todai-ji Temple. This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to the largest wooden structure in the world, the Great Buddha Hall, which houses a breathtaking 16-meter-tall bronze Buddha statue. As you explore this massive complex, you will find yourself surrounded by over 1,200 years of history.
But the temple is not just a marvel of engineering and artistry. It has also played an important role in Japanese history. The temple was originally built in the 8th century as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples in Japan. It was also a center of political power, with the emperor and his court often visiting the temple for important ceremonies and events.
Discover the Ancient Nara Palace Site
The ruins of the Nara Palace Site will transport you back to the 8th century when Nara was the capital of Japan. This expansive area covers over 1,300,000 square meters and includes several excavated buildings and structures. As you walk through the grassy fields and gardens, you can imagine what the palace must have looked like in its heyday.
The palace was the residence of the Emperor of Japan during the Nara period, from 710 to 794. It was a center of politics and culture, with many important events and ceremonies taking place within its walls. Today, the palace ruins are a testament to the grandeur and sophistication of the Nara period.
Stroll Through Nara Park and Kasuga-Taisha Shrine
Nara Park is a tranquil oasis in the center of the city, and it is also home to around 1,200 friendly deer who roam freely. These deer were once considered sacred, and you can buy special crackers to feed them. It’s a unique and unforgettable experience to interact with these gentle creatures.
Right next to Nara Park is the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, a beautiful Shinto shrine with thousands of lanterns that light up the walkways on special occasions. The shrine was founded in 768 and has been an important center of Shinto worship ever since. Its buildings and grounds are a masterpiece of Japanese architecture and design, and the atmosphere is serene and peaceful.
Overall, Nara is a city that will capture your heart and imagination. Its rich history, stunning architecture, and natural beauty make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Japanese culture and history.
Experience Nara’s Unique Wildlife
Nara, the ancient capital of Japan, is a city that is steeped in history and culture. While there are many things to see and do in Nara, one of the most unique experiences that the city offers is the chance to interact with its friendly deer. However, there is much more to Nara’s wildlife than just its deer. Here are some other places to visit and things to do that will allow you to experience Nara’s wildlife in all its glory.
Meet the Friendly Deer of Nara Park
As mentioned earlier, Nara Park is home to hundreds of deer, which can be approached quite easily. They are known for being friendly and docile, so interacting with them is a genuinely fun experience. You can even take selfies or feed them with special deer crackers, which are available for purchase in the park.
But did you know that these deer have a special significance in Japanese culture? In fact, they are considered to be messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion. The deer in Nara Park are believed to be sacred, and they have been protected by law since 1957. So, when you visit Nara Park, not only will you get to interact with these friendly creatures, but you will also be immersing yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Japan.
Visit the Nara City Small Animal Park
If you want to see more than just deer, then the Nara City Small Animal Park is the place to go. This park is home to a variety of small animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs, and birds. Guests can also find a petting area where they can interact with animals and even feed them. There are stalls around the park selling animal feed and souvenirs.
But that’s not all. The Nara City Small Animal Park also has a butterfly house, where you can see various species of butterflies up close. There is also a bird sanctuary, where you can observe different types of birds in their natural habitat. So, if you are an animal lover, this is one stop you don’t want to miss.
Explore the Manyo Botanical Garden
The Manyo Botanical Garden is a magnificent garden with over 3500 types of plants from around the world. Some of the plants are native to Japan, while others are exotic and rare varieties from other countries. The garden is famous for its cherry blossom tree collection, which blooms in late March to early April, and it is a must-visit place to experience Nara’s natural beauty.
But the Manyo Botanical Garden is not just about plants. It is also home to various species of birds, butterflies, and insects. The garden has a pond where you can see different types of fish and turtles. There are also walking trails that will take you through different sections of the garden, each with its own unique flora and fauna.
So, if you want to experience Nara’s wildlife in all its diversity, the Manyo Botanical Garden is the perfect place to do so.
Dive into Nara’s Vibrant Culture
When it comes to immersing yourself in Japanese culture, Nara is a must-visit destination. Located in the Kansai region of Japan, Nara is known for its rich history, stunning temples, and friendly locals. From strolling through the old merchant district to attending a traditional tea ceremony, there’s something for everyone in Nara.
Wander Through Naramachi, the Old Merchant District
Naramachi is a traditional Japanese town in the heart of Nara that has retained its original appearance since the Edo period (1603-1868). The town was once a prosperous merchant district, and you can stroll through its narrow streets and admire the preserved wooden houses, shops, and temples. Naramachi is an excellent place to buy souvenirs, eat traditional food, and experience the local culture. You might even catch a glimpse of a geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha) walking through the streets on their way to a performance.
As you wander through Naramachi, be sure to visit the Gango-ji Temple. This temple was founded in the 6th century and is one of the oldest temples in Japan. The temple’s main hall, the Daihozo-den, houses a statue of Buddha that is said to have been created by the famous sculptor, Tori Busshi.
Attend a Traditional Tea Ceremony
Japan is famous for its tea culture, and there is no better way to experience it than by participating in a traditional tea ceremony. In Nara, you can visit one of the tea houses in Yoshiki-en Garden, where you will be dressed in a kimono and served a cup of freshly whisked green tea. As you sip your tea in this serene setting, you’ll feel like you’ve transcended time and space.
The tea ceremony, also known as chanoyu, is a ritual that has been practiced in Japan for centuries. It involves the preparation and presentation of matcha, a powdered green tea, in a way that is both beautiful and meaningful. The tea ceremony is a way to connect with nature, appreciate the beauty of simplicity, and show respect for your guests.
Explore the Nara National Museum
The Nara National Museum houses an incredible collection of Buddhist art, including paintings, sculptures, and textiles. The museum’s collection is said to be one of the best in Japan, and you’ll have the opportunity to see some of the most exquisite examples of Buddhist art in the world. The exhibitions change throughout the year, so be sure to check the schedule before you go.
The museum is located in Nara Park, which is also home to several other famous landmarks, including the Todai-ji Temple and the Kasuga-taisha Shrine. Nara Park is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon, and you’ll likely see many friendly deer roaming the grounds. The deer in Nara are considered sacred, and they are believed to be messengers of the gods.
Whether you’re interested in history, art, or simply soaking up the local culture, Nara is a destination that should not be missed. With its stunning temples, friendly locals, and rich traditions, Nara is a place that will leave a lasting impression on your heart and soul.
Savor Nara’s Delicious Cuisine
Try Local Delicacies at Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market is a bustling food market located in the center of Nara. Here, you’ll find a wide variety of local and international food stalls, where you can sample some of Nara’s most delicious cuisine. You can try everything from fresh sashimi to grilled wagyu beef and pickled vegetables. The market is a great place to grab a bite to eat or stock up on souvenirs to take home.
Indulge in Authentic Japanese Sweets
Japanese sweets, or wagashi, are an essential part of Japanese cuisine. In Nara, you can visit one of the many traditional Japanese sweet shops, where you’ll find handmade wagashi made from natural ingredients like rice flour, azuki beans, and sugar. You can also try warabimochi, a type of mochi made from bracken starch and served with kinako soybean flour and brown sugar syrup.
Experience a Traditional Kaiseki Dinner
Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course dinner, and it is considered one of Japan’s most refined culinary arts. In Nara, you can visit one of the many kaiseki restaurants, where you’ll be served a series of exquisitely prepared dishes made from local ingredients. Each course is expertly crafted to highlight the flavors and textures of the ingredients, and the presentation is breathtaking. This is a dining experience that you won’t soon forget.
Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a foodie, Nara has something exciting to offer. With so many places to explore and things to do, Nara is a must-visit destination in Japan. So pack your bags and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime!