I LOVE JAPAN: Nara

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Nara could possibly be one of our favorite places in Japan. It’s simple yet it’s distinctly unique from all the other Japanese cities we have visited. Nara is located less than one hour from Kyoto and Osaka. Due to its past as being the first permanent capital of Japan, it remains full of historic treasures, including some of Japan’s oldest and largest temples.

Yes. How picturesque!

That’s their JR train station. It is still beautiful!

Our bodies were in protest from all the walking we did in Kyoto the previous day that we could hardly surrender to our respective alarm clocks. But upon realization that we are already waking up in the beautiful country called Japan, we did not want to waste precious time in Japan,so we hurriedly got dressed then made our way to the shinkansen (Japan bullet train) to get to Nara on time.

One of the most amazing man-made inventions I have ever experienced! The bullet train was indeed a milestone! Believe me, Japan has the most extensive and most efficient subway and train network in the world!

My happy-about-to-ride-another-bullet-train-face!

This was the local JR train that took us directly to Nara!

The travel time was longer compared to going to Kyoto, perhaps we were on the local train for about an hour, but we did not even notice it as the journey in itself was already rewarding as the beautiful sights along the way introduced us to the beauty of Nara.

Sika deers freely roaming around the beautiful grounds of Nara

Upon getting to Nara, it was like a completely different place, like it had its own character making itself different from other Japanese cities. It did not feel like we where in a usual Japanese town, it was special. It felt like Macau, but with extreme Japanese influences all over. It was awe-inspiring in every way.

How to get to Nara:

Miyakoji rapid trains (kaisoku) operate every 30 minutes between Kyoto Station and JR Nara Station. The one way trip takes 45 minutes and costs 690 yen. The Japan Rail Pass is valid on these trains.

1. KOFUKUJI TEMPLE

Kofukuji used to be the family temple of the Fujiwara, the most powerful family clan during much of the Nara and Heian Periods. The temple was established in Nara at the same time as the capital in 710. At the height of Fujiwara power, the temple consisted of over 150 buildings”. But today, the 150 buildings are not standing anymore, but a couple of buildings of great historic value continue to remain. And we did not waste any time as we immediately headed to Kofukuji’s five story pagoda and Eastern Golden Hall.

“At 50 meters, the five story pagoda is Japan’s second tallest, just seven meters shorter than the five story pagoda at Kyoto’s Toji Temple. Kofukuji’s pagoda is both a landmark and symbol of Nara. It was first built in 730, and was most recently rebuilt in 1426″. (Japan Guide)

The pink perfection of a Japanese spring!

Besides that, if you have never seen a Sika Deer, then this must be one of the perfect locations for you to interact with these amazing creatures. We had a grand time befriending and feeding the sika deers scattered all over the place. Sika Deers are said to be messenger of the gods in the Shinto religion

Are you…talking to me?

They may look tame and innocent but once they run out of deer cookies, they’ll come and charge you on your butt!

Looks can be deceiving. You’ve been warned.

How to get there:
Kofukuji is a five minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, or a 20 minute walk from JR Nara Station. Kofukuji can also be reached from JR Nara Station by clockwise running loop bus number 2 or any of the buses bound for Kasuga Taisha (7 minutes, 180 yen). Get off at Kencho-mae bus stop.

2. TODAIJI

“Todaiji is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples and a landmark of Nara. The temple was constructed in 752 as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan and grew so powerful that the capital was moved from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 in order to lower the temple’s influence on government affairs.” (Japan Guide)

Todaiji, the largest wooden building in the world

 

Todaiji’s main hall, the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) is the world’s largest wooden building, despite the fact that the present reconstruction of 1692 is only two thirds of the original temple hall’s size. The massive building houses one of Japan’s largest bronze statues of Buddha (Daibutsu). The 15 meters tall, seated Buddha represents Vairocana and is flanked by two Bodhisattvas.” (Japan Guide)

Super big buddha!

They say, if you make it out of this hole, you are a genuinely good person. If you get stuck, well… we’ll just be praying for you.

3. KASUGA TAISHA (Kasuga Grand Shrine)

On the way to the shrine is a path filled with stone lanterns. It cannot be missed because of its sheer number. The shrine is spectacular in itself because the journey towards the shrine is being guided by the stone lanterns paving its path. The 3000 lanterns lining up the path towards the shrine is a symbolism of the 3000 Kasuga shrines spread throughout Japan. Moreover, these lanterns prove to be a symbol of illumination, a guiding light.

“Kasuga Taisha is Nara‘s most celebrated shrine. It was established at the same time as the capital and is dedicated to the deity responsible for the protection of the city. Kasuga Taisha was also the tutelary shrine of theFujiwara, Japan’s most powerful family clan during most of the Nara and Heian Periods. ” (Japan Guide)

These lanterns are donated by the followers of Shinto religion to show gratitude and support to the shrine. Each lantern has an inscription of a particular deity the donor is praying to.

Nara was special, despite our limited time to explore it. The long travel was definitely worth it because of the priceless learning experiences we encountered along the way. I will surely recommend any visitor to marvel at Nara as it features more than 6 UNESCO world heritage sites!

Getting to Nara from Osaka:
Miyakoji rapid trains (kaisoku) operate every 30 minutes between Kyoto Station and JR Nara Station. The one way trip takes 45 minutes and costs 690 yen. The Japan Rail Pass is valid on these trains.

About Mia G.

Teacher Mia. A Happy Girl. Chaser of dreams. Believer of living out each beautiful dream. A Full-time Preschool Teacher with a part-time job of being a happy traveler and wanderer. Co-founder of Destination Getaways Travel and Tours! A Proud Filipina who wants to travel the world one place at a time, one breathtaking moment at a time. Join the personal accounts of my adventures and misadventures and random experiences in our big and beautiful classroom-- the world. Share my experiences on spontaneity, excitement, adventure, travel, exploration, gastronomic encounters, and everything in between!

3 responses »

  1. Pingback: I LOVE JAPAN: Osaka | Teacher Mia Travels

  2. Hi Mia! Thank you for blogging about your Japan trip. Is half day enough for the above activities in Nara? Thanks!

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