Sunday, 15 February 2015

Nara itinerary - What to do and eat in Nara, Japan

We took the Yamatoji rapid trains from JR Osaka Station to Nara (JR Nara Station). This is fully covered by the JR Pass! The journey took about 45 minutes so we found seats, settled down, and sipped leisurely from our Starbucks while the city whizzed by outside.

From JR Nara Station, we simply walked around and explored the place on foot. Easily manageable and the cold weather made walking a breeze. There are lots of signs pointing towards Nara Park from the station and you are unlikely to miss them. When you see the brown building below, cross the road and head into Sanjo Dori Avenue. The locations below are in chronological order. 

What to do in Nara 

Visit Kofukuji: Walk along Sanjo Dori Avenue and you will reach Kofukuji in about 15 minutes. Entrance into Kofukuji temple grounds is free and we had lots of fun marveling the beautiful buildings and pagodas. 

Visit Todaiji: This is about a 45 minute walk from JR Nara Station (so we stopped for lunch at Shizuka between Kofukuji and Todaiji). Todaiji is a significant landmark in Nara and was constructed as a head temple for all Buddhist temples in Japan. Entrance into the main hall requires a fee of 500 Yen.

Explore Nara Park: Nara Park, in particular the areas surrounding Kofukuji and Todaiji, is very beautiful. Peaceful ponds, evergreen trees, and bare branches converge to form a lovely painting. We walked through the quiet isolated areas of Nara Park and watched many elderly people sitting on little stools and painting. Some of them inked the scenery onto their sketch books while others focused on replicating the historical buildings on paper. Watching them draw and paint brought a surreal sense of peace. 

Say hello to a deer: Deer are everywhere in Nara Park. They are incredibly smart (I watched a deer waiting to cross at a junction and eventually crossing when the cars stopped!) and are not afraid of humans. So go up, say hello, and take a close up photo with a deer! If you fancy being surrounded by a huge crowd of deer, purchase a packet of crackers from the roadside stalls and you will find yourself becoming the most popular person in their eyes. Be careful though, I saw a deer nibbling a girl's butt because she was too slow at distributing her crackers. 

What to eat in Nara

Eat Kamameishi at Shizuka: The awesome thing about Shizuka is that it is right in between Kofukuji and Todaiji which makes it a perfect stop for lunch. Be prepared to queue during lunch time, especially since it takes awhile to prepare kamameishi. I had the crab meat kamameishi which was light, fresh, and delicious! The best part about kamameishi is that it allows you to taste the true sweetness that comes from fresh seafood. 

59 Noborioji-chio Nara

Nara is perfect for a nice lazy stroll in the late morning and early afternoon. Shopping at Sanjo Dori Avenue and Higashimuki Shopping Street (both near JR Nara Station) was not too interesting so don't expect to do much shopping in Nara. 

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