One day visit to Nara
A city to visit near Kyoto for a day
Spend a day in Nara to see where the arts, architecture and Buddhist religion first flourished.
Less known than its neighbor Kyoto , which is only 42 km away, Nara has nothing to envy. Most of its buildings are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and some of its 36 temples are among the oldest in the archipelago.
Less urban and sprawling than Kyoto, Nara can be visited in a day from Kyoto , walking through its huge park or wandering into its surrounding countryside. Whether you go there from Kyoto or Osaka (30 km away), it will take you less than an hour and you can be there when the sites open, before the crowds.
The main places of attraction being concentrated around the Kintetsu-Nara station, the visit is airy and green thanks to its immense park, the Nara Koen dotted with temples and other historical monuments and inhabited by about a thousand not very shy deer.
- Read also: Nara Park
The most beautiful architectural works of Nara
You can start the day by visiting the Kofukuji temple, located not far from Kintetsu-Nara station. First built in 669 in Kyoto by the powerful Fujiwara clan, it was transposed to Nara in 710. At its height, the temple compound contained more than a hundred buildings. Today, its five-storey pagoda has become the emblem of the city and its reflection in the waters of Sarusawa Pond is a delight for photographers. The set includes the National Treasure House, which houses magnificent Buddhist statues.
- Read also: The Fujiwara family
Art lovers will be able to satisfy their passion thanks to the National Museum of Nara which includes an impressive collection of Buddhist art, theater masks and porcelain. To the northeast of the museum, the visit continues with the most visited and most monumental building in the city: the imposing Todaiji temple of the Kegon sect.
Passing the Nandaimon gate (12th century), 29m high, you immediately take the measure of this disproportionate architectural ensemble! Although rebuilt in 1692, the temple's main Daibutsu-den pavilion is the largest wooden structure in the world. It houses the largest Buddha statue in Japan: 450 tons of bronze and gold for 15 meters in height.
Going down to the south of the park, you will discover the Kasuga Taishai Shinto shrine. Its alley of stone lanterns followed by bronze lanterns suspended from the eaves, its vermilion buildings standing out against the green of the surrounding nature make it a very photogenic place.
Take the time to stroll in the park in the middle of the deer chasing you to snatch a small biscuit. They are considered in Nara as the messengers of the gods.
- Read also: Kasuga Taisha Shrine
Things to do near Nara
Even further south, discover Japan's first Buddhist temple, Gangoji . It will be time to take a break in one of the restaurants or cafes in the alleys of the old shopping district, Naramachi . This is also where you can shop for souvenirs or handicrafts.
If you have time and energy left, take a bus (45-minute ride) from Kintetsu-Nara Station to Horyuji Temple or a train from JR Nara Station on the Yamatoji Line to JR Nara Station. Horyuji (12 mins). Horyuji, built in 607 and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is part of a group of Buddhist buildings constituting the oldest wooden structure in the world. You can spend the rest of the day there quietly before heading to Nara.
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