The city of Nara is famous all over Japan for being one of its cultural capitals and Todaiji Temple in particular is often considered to be the jewel in its crown. Easily reached from either Kyoto or Osaka, Nara is often left off many travelers itineraries which is a shame as it has a lot to offer and you can even visit it in a day if you are short of time. If you have been spending most of your time in heaving cities like Tokyo then Nara provides some welcome calm.
Nara-kun or Nara Park is one of Nara’s gems and is located in the east of the city. If you want to explore some of the outdoors in Japan, particularly if you have come from big cities like Tokyo then you can go for a walk here and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere as well as spotting the deer that live wild here. The deer are said to be messengers of god in Buddhism and as such there are more than 1,000 that roam the park and on-site temple grounds.
Located inside Nara-kun or Nara Park is Todaiji Temple which has the claim to fame of being the largest wooden building in the world. Not only is this impressive in itself, but when you get inside you will find and equally awe-inspiring bronze statue of Buddha, actually the biggest in the world. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and something of a national treasure in Japan so make sure not to miss.
After a day of discovering the sights of Nara, head to Naramchi District where it can truly feel like you have gone back in time. The houses and cafes here have to follow strict laws regarding their construction so they don’t look out of place and many are very narrow and tall. As you walk around, you can choose whichever place you think looks inviting. Many have wooden outdoor seating areas that serve alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, or tea, and it’s a nice idea to have a drink and watch the foot traffic.
It is a shame that Nara is not more visited by travelers who tend not to bother to make the day trip from Osaka or Kyoto. Easily visited in a day, this town is a delightful slice of authentic life in Japan, and it is also the home of the largest bronze Buddha in the world, reason enough to come in itself.