Nara was our last one-day trip from our “base” at Kyoto. As you can imagine one day is hardly enough to explore everything in Nara so we focused on one of the main attractions – the Kofuko-ji temple. Everything we experienced in Nara we really liked. The temple was beautiful, the greenery everywhere, the city streets and the numerous amount of deers everywhere, just a beautiful city.
Japan’s first permanent capital was established in the year 710 at Heijo, the city now known as Nara (奈良). Nara is located less than one hour from Kyoto and Osaka. Due to its past as the first permanent capital, the city remains full of historic treasures, including some of Japan’s oldest and largest temples.
We had enough time to walk the streets of Nara as well as the Kofuko-Ji temple. The streets and the little shops everywhere reminded us of the ones in Kyoto. The little parks and greenery around the temples as well as the deers made Nara stand out from all the places we visited in Japan. We felt really relaxed in Nara, something with the combination of the traditional Japanese architecture and those cherry blossoms under which deers just walk around makes you really happy and upbeat. Even though we were under the weather during that week we had an absolute blast there. You need a lot more days to explore everything in this city. We felt that we could have easily spend another 3-5 days just wandering around the temples and beautiful streets of Nara.
Things to see
The most famous temple in Nara is the Todaiji Temple followed by the Hōryū-Ji temple. We did not have time to explore these since we were sick at the time but we highly recommend them. Both as well as some others were high up there on our list. Unfortunately, we only had time to explore the Kofuku-Ji temple realistically.
The temple was quite big in comparison to some of the others we manage to visit. It is a Buddhist temple that was once one of the Seven Great Temples, in the city of Nara. It used to be the family temple of the most powerful aristocratic clan during much of the Nara and Heian Periods – The Fujiwara. Temple was established in 710. At the height of Fujiwara’s power, it consisted of over 150 buildings!
During our time there (we visited Japan in March) there were plenty of cherry blossoms in and around the temple. Just beautiful scenery and a great background for pictures. The temple overall was not as busy as some of the others. The streets outside of it however were quite packed with cars and people. There were also some lines to some of the buildings so have that in mind if you plan to explore everything inside this temple.
By far the best shrimp udon soup we had in the entire trip was in Nara. It was a small place with a huge line to get a table and an old woman who ruled in there with an iron fist, She was not very polite and frequently re-arranged already sitting customers to different tables like she was playing Tetris. No one complained since they knew how good the food was. At the time we thought that was rude but after we ate our lunch we did not care. Best udon noodle soup ever!
We rushed through Nara and we wished the circumstances were different. It was an amazing city to easily spend a week there and enjoy everything it has to offer. If you are planning your trip make sure you have more than a day there. Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka we felt required more than a few days to really enjoy and see the main attractions. From the time we had there however it was an amazing experience and we highly recommend it.