So the previous night Jessica (aka Denver) invited me to spend the day in Nara with her and since I was going to visit anyway why not do it with a friend? An early wake up was easy as the German lady in my dorm left early to fly home and did a fine job as an alarm. The trip to Nara from Kyoto is extremely simple and free if you have a JR Pass! You simply go to Kyoto station and hop on either a rapid or local train heading there, done. I was a little delayed as I took the local and it makes some lengthy stops at random small stations along the way, but nevertheless I arrived safe and sound.
My immediate reaction to the town was one of fondness. It’s a lot sleepier than any other place I’ve been to so far in Japan, and quite charming. I was reminded of a smaller and quieter version of Kyoto.
Obviously the major attraction of Nara is the parkland which is filled with deer and they’re literally everywhere. Some were really quite inquisitive, and others simply didn’t care that we were there.
The deer park is lovely if you can forget the smell of deer poo. Which is easy enough when you are around such cute faces!
After a jaunt around the park we headed for the Todaiji temple which is the main must see in Nara, but first we were detoured to a quaint park which was supposed to be a charming little pit stop on the way to the temple. It’s not enormous, in fact we finished it in a matter of minutes, but it is nice and would only stand to be more spectacular in Spring.
An additional win over of the park is the fact it is free to all international visitors so there’s no reason not to give it a looksy while in town!
The park was overshadowed in a major way by the Todaiji Temple though! The first thing I noticed was the gigantic wooden entrance gate. It doesn’t seem to have been restored in a long time and I love the authenticity of it. The gate seems to have two guardians at the entrance who are more than menacing.
It was a bit disappointing as we looked upon the entry gate to the main temple as it was covered in builders equipment and was clearly under a major renovation. Either that or Feudal Japan was well and truly advanced and terracing was used to effectively keep invading armies out.
We initially feared that the entire thing might be under reconstruction but thankfully that wasn’t the case.
The temple is immense! It’s the largest wooden building on earth and seeing it for the first time that fact is no longer surprising. It wasn’t too busy which was a refreshing start, and once you entire the building things only get more impressive from there. The first thing you notice is the gigantic Buddha who is flanked by two other giant monuments and each have a chair that anyone would love to have in their living rooms.
Once you finish marvelling at immensity of those three you can find smaller statues off to the sides which we may have tried to mimic and received some worrying glances from locals.
Exiting the temple isn’t the end of the adventure though. You can head into the gardens and up the mountain which is extremely relaxing and of course deer filled. It’s genuinely one of those things to see that tends to take up the major chunk of your time which is usually an indicator of worthiness.
Afterwards we were a bit peckish so off to the 7/11 for sushi and a sit down. Seriously the 7/11, Lawson’s and Aeon’s in Japan are the definition of convenient and if you haven’t been yet you will quickly realise that if you only ate from them the entire time you were in Japan you wouldn’t be disappointed. They’re perfect for the budget traveller!
The afternoon was spent sitting by the pond in town talking and getting harassed by pigeons as a local man played guitar nearby. As the sun began to set we went on a stroll through town to collect Jessica’s bags as she was heading on to Osaka and the town continued to deliver the goods as we made our way up the mountain. There are more photos but they turned out quite grainy and an even lower quality than my usual…shocking that exists.
Eventually it was time to say our goodbyes and it was quite sad! I’ve heard that meeting new people is made more powerful while you travelling and saying goodbye is amplified also, they aren’t wrong. At least Nara will always be there to remember the day by.