Located in Kansai region and less than an hour from Kyoto and Osaka, there’s a country named Nara which is renowned for its temple and deer. As it is a first permanent capital city of Japan, Nara offers 8 UNESCO Heritage Sites, historical temples, shrines, ruins, and gardens. This beautiful, peaceful city is a home for a thousand of deer which ranging freely. If you are planning to visit the west of Japan, let’s these nine places in Nara be your choice.
Situated in the centre of Nara, the large park, where many locations including Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji and the Nara National Museum are located in, is named Nara park. This park is a home of hundreds of deer freely roaming around the park. Believed to be the messengers of the gods, the deer become to be a symbol of Nara and are labelled as a natural treasure. The deer in the park is extremely tame but aggressive sometimes. The visitors can find and buy deer cracker around the parks. Some deer were trained to bow to the visitors to ask to be feed.
With famous bronze Great Buddha statue, Todaiji, a huge wooden temple, is one of the most important and historic temples in Japan. The famous bronze Great Buddha statue is housed in the main hall, the one of the largest wooden structure in the world. To build the Buddha, almost all of the bronze in Japan were used. Don’t miss a wooden column with a hole which is believed that whoever can crawl through the small hole will earn enlightenment. For anyone who is interested in Buddhist art, there’s a museum homing several cultural artifacts from the temple’s collection.
Kasuga Taisha Shrine
Located next to the Kasuyagama Primeval Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Kasuga Taisha is a shrine of the Fujiwara family featuring the bronze and stone lanterns along the path to the shrine. Walking up the mossy path lined with a hundred of stone lanterns from Todaiji temple to Kasuga Taisha Shrine is worthwhile. The green background of moss and trees and the red shrine buildings is ravishing scenery.
Located in western Nara, near Nishinokyo Station, Yakushiji Temple is the head temple of the Hosso Sect of Japanese Buddhism which was constructed by Emperor Tenmu in the 700s. With one main hall and a lecture hall in the middle and pagodas on each side, this temple is well-known for its strict symmetrical and geometric layout. The east pagodas are the only original construction that has survived from the fires.
Horyuji Temple, one of the largest temples in Japan and the oldest wooden construction in the world, was built by Prince Shotoku in 607 to be a home for a statue of the Yakushi (Medicinal) Buddha and countless clay and bronze statues from the Nara period. This sprawling complex was burnt down in 670 but was rebuilt shortly.
Heijo Palace Site
Most structures in Heijo Palace site including the Suzaku Gate, the Daigoku-den (Council Hall), and the East Palace Garden are modern reconstructions but the site is still an intriguing illustration of architecture in Nara period. There are the foundations of the former palace, preserved excavation areas, and two museums; the Heijo Palace site museum and the Heijokyo History Museum exhibited in the site.
Isuien and Yoshikien Gardens
Located next to Todaji Temple, a small but attractive Isuien Garden offers the “borrowed” scenery of Todaiji’s Nandaimon Gate and Mount Wakakusayama, several tea houses and a small museum with Ancient Chinese and Korean artifacts. On the other side of the Yoshikigawa River, there’s the Yoshikien Garden which is free for foreign visitors. It offers three separate types of Japanese gardens including a pond garden, a moss garden and a tea ceremony garden.
Nara National Museum
Located across the Yoshikien Garden, the western-style museum called the Nara National Museum displays architecture and houses in Meiji period. During the fall, the special exhibition of artifacts from the Todaiji Treasury is held in the museum.