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My day trip to Nara from Kyoto
A beautiful city located south of Kyoto, Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 794. In this ancient city, you can find World Heritage Sites - wonderful Buddhist temples, Shinto Shrines, and the famous deer roaming around Nara Park. It is 100% worth a visit while you're in Japan.
I went there in April, during the Cherry Blossom Season.
My itinerary was as follows: from Nara train station I went straight to Kofukuji, from there I crossed through Nara Park, stopped at Nara Museum, and then went to Todaiji. After that, I spent a bit more time in the park and then went to Kasuga Taisha.
Each of the below activities takes at least an hour and a half to two hours. If you're planning on following this itinerary, please make sure you give yourself plenty of time to actually enjoy everything rather than rushing around.
This is how it all went :
How to get there
Nara is one hour away by train from Kyoto or 1h 50 min by car.
From Kyoto Station, I took the Nara Line ( from platform 10, 1h 6 min, 20 stops) to JR Nara Station. One way trip was 720 Yen and from what I could see there are 2 trains/hour. I used the Japan Transit Planner (Jorudan) and Navitime to plan ahead and check train times. They are both super useful apps, I highly recommend you download them before your trip.
I went there early on a Tuesday morning and it was quite busy, so I imagine it will be super busy during the weekend. In all fairness, I was there during Sakura Season so that might be why it was crowded, but, even so, I didn't need to book the tickets in advance.
Kofuku-ji Temple is one of Japan's most famous and oldest Buddhist temples. It was the family temple of the Fujiwara Family and it was established in 710. The temple grounds are open 24/7, all year round and the Museum and Hall are open from 9:00 - 17:00.
From JR Nara Station, I walked almost in a straight line for 14 minutes until I reached the stairs leading to Kofuku-ji Temple. As I reached the top of the stairs I could already see the five-story Pagoda to my right and went past Kofuki-ji Nan'endo - the Southern Round Hall.
Entrance to the grounds is free.
If you want to enter the National Treasure Hall and the Eastern Golden Hall you can purchase a combined ticket for these two for 900 Yen (or individual tickets for 700 yen + 300 Yen).
From there, I walked past the Central Golden Hall which was not open to the public as it is in renovation until 2031.
From there I went towards the Five-story Pagoda. The Pagoda dates originally from 730, and although it's been through a number of fires throughout the years, the most recent reconstruction from 1426 is what we see today.
It is the second-tallest wooden pagoda in Japan, 4.7 m shorter than the one from To-ji in Kyoto (54.8 m).
After taking a million pictures of the Pagoda, from all possible angles, I made my way to the Eastern Hall and then the National Treasure Hall, both displaying impressive cultural artefacts which are, as the name suggests, national treasures of Japan.
From Kofuku-ji Temple I walked for about 5 minutes until I reached Nara National Museum. The museum is open from 9.30 - 17:00 from Tuesday to Sunday and the ticket is 700 Yen. The museum mainly displays Japanese Buddhist art.
From the Nara National Museum, I walked for about 5-10 minutes to Todai-ji, a huge Buddhist temple which houses a few statues, including one of Japan's largest bronze Buddha statues. This temple was initially built in 752 with the current reconstruction dating from 1692.
The Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) is one of the world's biggest wooden structures.
Todai-ji Temple is open all year round from 8:00 until 17:00. The entry ticket is 600 Yen.
From Todai-ji I made my way back to Nara Park. I wasn't sure how to feel about the whole feeding the deer frenzy, but I thought I'd give it a try while I was there.
The senbei (crackers) cost 200 yen and they are made specifically for the deer roaming around the park. The second the deer hear the rustling of the wrapper around the crackers, they will come after you instantly.
Be prepared to be followed around and vaguely ambushed by a bunch of deer. Don't get me wrong, they are cute, but they are still wild animals that can't be treated as cuddly toys.
Kasuga Taisha Shrine
After I sat down and had my packed lunch away from the deer, I went towards the last part of my Nara Itinerary - Kasuga Taisha Shrine.
A 10-15 minute walk from Nara Museum, Kasuga Taisha is a beautiful Shinto Shrine as old as Nara - about 1300 years.
The Main Shrine/Sanctuary is open from 6:30 until 17:00, and the entry ticket is 500 yen. Other buildings have different opening times and some require a separate ticket, so please check their official website for more details closer to the date when you plan to visit.
There is one room/place which allows you to see what the lanterns look like at night which I thought was a brilliant idea. I can't remember exactly where it is in Kasuga Taisha, but if you follow the arrows and everyone else around you will surely find it.
I wish I could have spent more time at Kasuga Taisha, so a second visit is already on my to-do/to-see list for the next time I'm in Nara.
Back to Kyoto
From Kasuga Taisha, I walked back to Nara Train Station (about 20-25 minutes) and hopped on the first train back to Kyoto. There was no need to book in advance and that made my day trip to Nara a bit more relaxed as I was not pressed for time.
If you have any questions, ask away in the comments and if you like my little itinerary, please click on the little heart below.
I hope life is treating you well.