Nara has been attracting a great deal of travellers due to their free roaming deers, and especially after being featured on the popular Korean variety show “The Return of Superman” when Sarang went there with her dad and grandpapa. And of course if you’re in the Kansai region, Nara could easily be a day stop in your Japan itinerary.
Having gone there for a day trip myself, here’s a quick guide to what you need to know and expect when going to Nara:
Unlike Osaka and Kyoto, you actually cannot get to Nara via the shinkansen. It’s a smaller city so the only option is via the local train. You can also look out for the express option for a slightly faster route.
If you’re going from Osaka:
You’ll realise you have 2 train route options, with one ending at Kintetsu-Nara Station (via Kintetsu-Nara Line) and the other ending at JR Nara Station (via the Yamatoji Line). So if you’ve already purchased a JR pass, I would strongly recommend you to take the JR train since it’s been paid for and even though it appears to be quite long a walk from the Nara deer park (if that’s your destination). Along the way, you get to see a beautiful line of shops for your souvenirs, postcards, famous food and fresh strawberries as well!
If you’re going from Kyoto:
You won’t have the JR option, the only available route will be via the Kintetsu-Nara line.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Would you be overwhelmed by the deers? No.
Then would you be underwhelmed by the deers? Yes and no.
If you’re going there with the expectation that these cute deers would just come surrounding you anyhow and showering you with love, you’ll be very disappointed. While they’re mostly tamed and unaggressive, they’re still animals after all. If you want a good photo, get those 100yen food to feed them, otherwise they’re probably not that into you. #justsayin’
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO?
Apart from spending an hour or so taking as many photos as you possibly can with the deers, Nara is also a great place to go temple-hopping and revisit Japanese historical artefacts. To give you a background, Nara is Japan’s first permanent capital since the year 710 at Heijo. It was moved to Nagaoka thereafter due to the growing influence of the many Buddhist monasteries, of which some of these biggest and oldest temples still remain.
While Todaiji is often regarded as the landmark of Nara and the most significant temple there given its history, I personally feel it’s really nice to just walk around, popping in and out of small temples along the way.
HOW LONG TO SPEND IN NARA
With these, I would recommend a good 3 to 4 hours spent in Nara itself, excluding travelling time to and fro from wherever you came from. So if you’re doing a day trip, I would recommend to go in the afternoon and leave by sunset, where you can catch Nara’s golden hour just right before you leave.