What To Do in Nara in One Day
Introduction to Nara
For those of you that haven't heard of Nara it's a city about an hour to an hour and a half from Osaka by local train. This town has everything from temples galore to friendly deer that get a little overly excited if you buy them their favorite snack, senbei. You can even see a giant Buddha statue.
Personally, this location is best for anyone that wants a great day trip and is staying in Osaka or Kyoto. Nara is especially great for kids since there are plenty of outdoor activities and the parks are beautiful in Nara especially in fall.
Nara in Fall
Stop 1: Kofuku-Ji (Recommended time 9:00 a.m.)
This is where you'll probably get your first glimpse of the deer.
The first temple you'll see if bright red so it's hard to miss and has a long staircase you walk up to in order to get to it. You will pass it when you see the lake on the way to deer park, but only if you're coming from Nara Station.
There are several temples in the square, and a towering pagoda. It's on the way to Nara Park also known as deer park so it's also efficient to go there first since it's on the way there.
This is a picturesque and free place that's great for viewing. You can also see the deer without the larger crowds in some of the other places the deer like to gather. You can enter the temple next to the pagoda for a small fee. You can view more information on Kofuku-Ji here.
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Kofuku-JiClick thumbnail to view full-size
Deer Park is Kid Friendly and Budget Friendly
Deer Park is kid friendly and budget friendly. It's free to see the deer and only 150 yen to get the senbei to feed them. Just be careful about letting your kids feed the deer as they tend to get pushy if there is food involved.
Stop 2: Deer Park (Recommended time 10:00 a.m.)
Just a short walk from there is the start of deer park, a huge area that includes several temples and excellent views of Mount Wakakusa. This is where you will most likely spend most of your day. There are museums and shrines everywhere as well as prolific amounts of deer. The amount of deer almost surpasses the number of people in some places.
Throughout Nara Park you will see several stores and booths selling what look like large thin cookies for 150 yen. This is the food for the deer. You usually get about 8 or 9 of the disks for feeding. You can also have the kids feed the deer but be careful as the males can sometimes get a bit pushy.
Even if you don't buy the food, the deer are very friendly and you can usually pet them if you go slowly.
The park itself is also an excellent place to wander around during the fall so you can see the changing leaves. If you get hungry, you will often see food booths as well. I recommend some Karaage (fried meat usually chicken) or Yakisoba (grilled noodles).
You can sometimes find my personal favorite, Dango for 100 yen for a skewer. It's mochi with a glaze that is sometimes more sweet and sometimes more salty. The dango I found in Nara was more salty than sweet.
Nara ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Stop 3: The Giant Buddha Statue in Todaiji Temple (Recommended time 12:30 p.m.)
This was a fairly quick stop for me since I decided to just see the Giant Buddha. You can pay to see the Giant Buddha for 500 yen for adults or 800 yen if you also want to see the museum. For me, it was well worth it. The building that houses the statue is amazing and there's a small pamphlet you can get that has information in English about the statue including the fact that the statue is 15 meters tall. They even have some English tours. You can view more information about the temple here.
Just towards the entrance at the building you will see another much smaller statue. It's said if you rub the statue and then rub a part of your body that's hurting that it will help heal your ailment.
Once inside the building with the statue, you will see several shops where you can buy everything from candles for the shrine to luck charms.
November - February: 9:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m.
March: 9:30 a.m to 5:00 p.m
April - September: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
October: 9:30 a.m to 5:00 p.m.
Giant Buddha Only
Giant Buddha and Museum
Giant BuddhaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Stop 4: Okumura Commemorative Museum
If you want to stop for a short rest, there's a scenic spot just along the main road. It's called Okumura Commemorative Museum. The museum is free and has a seismic activity simulator, free green tea, and an observatory. There is also plenty of seating so it's an excellent place to sit, relax, and enjoy the view.
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Okumura Commemorative MuseumClick thumbnail to view full-size
Stop 5: Yoshiki-en (Recommend time 2:00 p.m.)
There's an excellent Japanese Garden called Yoshiki-en. There's a tea room that you can few and even rent out for a fee. The garden has a lookout towards the entrance as well as an array of flowers, a moss garden, and beautiful fall leaves in autumn. This is an excellent place to enjoy nature and to see the results of the changing seasons. You can view more information about Yoshikoen here.
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Adults: 250 yen
Children (younger than high school): 120 yen
YoshikoenClick thumbnail to view full-size
Getting around in Nara
Nara is fairly easy to navigate by foot. However, if you would look there is a loop bus that leaves from Nara station. It's about 230 yen per ride or 500 yen for the day. You can also find more information on the bus here.
From Nara station, Nara park is about 2.2 km or about a 26 minute walk.
Places to visit in Nara
That's all for now. Please let me know if there's anything I missed or that you would like more information on regarding one of the destinations in Nara. Thank you.