Today’s travel guide to Nara is your guide to a day in this neat city.
Less than an hour outside Kyoto (and Osaka) is the site of Japan’s first capital city, now known as Nara. The city is full of beautiful and historic temples and buildings although one of the main attractions for me and many other visitors is Nara Park.
Throughout Nara Park (and much of the area near and around the park) you’ll find lush green grass, vendors selling delicious takoyaki or soba noodles and hundreds and hundreds of wild deer.
The deer in Nara are free roaming and treasured. Although they are wild, they are mostly tame and many are used to being fed the specially sold deer crackers by tourists. If you hold your hand up with a cracker some of the deer have learned to bow for the crackers. It’s quite cute, but don’t tease the deer.
I found some of the deer got a bit aggressive when you were holding the crackers, but not feeding them, even if you weren’t “teasing” them in any way. My shirt may have been nibbled just a tiiiiiny bit, but it was all harmless and fun and I loved the experience of petting deer outside of your normal zoo.
Peter and I rented electric bicycles just outside the Nara train station. There is a handy visitor center inside the train station when you arrive. They are very helpful and speak great English so be sure to stop in. They can point you in the direction to the bicycle rentals.
You can of course rent a regular bicycle, but this was my first time riding an electric bicycle and it was awesome. Every little pedal moved the bike with such ease and for such a great distance. I imagine that is what it is like being actually fit and muscular.
We rode our bikes to Nara Park which lead us just up to the entrance to Todaiji Temple, one of Japan’s most famous temples. The main hall, Daibutsuden, is the world’s largest wooden building.
Inside we saw the famous giant bronze Buddha and happened to catch a ceremony or service of sorts happening. We also caught the special guests on their way out of from the temple which was fascinating to see.
After their exit, Peter and I made our own way out for one last stop that was on my list — yomogi mochi at Nakatanidou
Nakatanidou – Located on Sanjo Dori, there will be a crowd – -you can’t miss it!
Yomogi mochi is a Japanese sweet made of mochi and Yomogi leaves (mugword). This was my first time trying Yomogi Mochi and I was unsure of what to expect from my first bite when I was holding the warm, soft ball of mochi in my hands. It tasted incredibly fresh with just a hint of sweetness and a light grassy flavor.
That may not be the best description, (grass flavored mochi, what?) but trust me, it was delicious and a unique flavor that I highly recommend. Aside from the taste, you’ll want to stop by Nakatanidou to watch the brilliant performance.
(Starting at 2:17 you’ll see the Nakatanidou clip.)
So if you’re planning a trip to Osaka or Kyoto, carve out a day to take the train to Nara. I wouldn’t stay overnight but it’s definitely worth a full day’s visit.
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