Despite being just a train ride away, Nara (奈良) is a place that feels worlds away from the bustle of Kyoto. For one, the ancient capital is overflowing with greenery and rolling hills at every turn. Not to mention the place is steeped with history, and there’s no shortage of things to explore. It was this point in the trip that was particularly memorable for me, because my phone decided to die! At the very least I’d already met up with my friends as planned, but geez. Talk about the worst possible thing to happen when you’re travelling alone…
Anyway, there are a number of buses that frequent the area, but I was feeling optimistic and decided to take the scenic route that day. My first stop was Houryuji (法隆寺) which is famous for being the oldest temple in Japan. I actually have no idea what these acorn-like things are meant to represent, but you have to admit they look pretty cool!
Of course, you can’t go to Nara without coming across the hundreds of deer that call it home. They’re actually completely wild, and have been roaming the place for some time now! Ever since Nara was the capital of Japan, deer have been seen as messengers of the Shinto gods. Today, they tend to walk around wherever they please and chase down tourists for senbei, or rice crackers.
No matter how many times I visit Todaiji (東大寺), I think I’ll always be blown away by the sheer size of it. Just look at the building in comparison to all the tiny people! Inside you’ll find various national treasures of Japan, including this bronze Buddha statue.
At this point my feet were screaming, and I was considering skipping Kasuga Grand Shrine (春日大社) altogether. I’m so glad I stuck it out though! It’s such a magical place, and that’s just talking about the road leading up to it. The deer and moss everywhere totally reminded me of Princess Mononoke, and I felt like one of those little forest sprites would pop out any second.
A much deserved ice cream after all that walking. I was on a pretty tight schedule, but I’d definitely say that a whole day is needed to explore Nara properly! The relaxed atmosphere makes it the kind of place you should take your time visiting.