One Day Trip To Nara (奈良)

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Of course, no trip to the Kansai region of Japan would be complete without visiting the city of Nara (奈良), commonly referred to as the "city of deer" due to its large population of tame deer that live there and freely roam the streets.

Nara is located about 28km east of Osaka and within 1 hour away by train, making it one of the best places for a one-day trip. There are two main train lines to get to Nara from Osaka: the JR Yamatoji Line (大和路線), and the Kintetsu Nara Line (奈良線). We took Rapid Express train via the Kintetsu-Nara Line (近鉄奈良線) because it was the cheapest option (¥560) and it was the most convenient train to catch from our Airbnb.

Although Nara is small enough to get around by foot, we decided to do it a bit differently and went to explore the city on a bike. (I wanted to ride a bike somewhere in Japan, but I figured that Kyoto—even though it's one of the best bicycle cities in Asia—would be too busy for us to do so. Therefore, we opted for Nara.) However, in all honesty, bikes are not the best way getting around Nara and I wouldn't recommend it. The reason for this is because we didn't go very far (we only stayed around Nara Park and its vicinity) and we had to stop frequently due to foot traffic. UNLESS you intend to go outside Central Nara, walking is your best option. That being said, I did enjoy the smooth bike ride back to and from the station very much. We rented our bikes from Nara Rent-A-Cycle, paying ¥700/day each for bikes with gears. They even have power-assisted bikes (i.e., electric bikes) for hire!

By riding on our bikes, we reached our first destination in Nara Park (奈良公園) very quickly. I had planned to visit a number of attractions in the park, but we got too distracted by the deer that we could see almost everywhere. Plus, the busier it got, the harder it was to travel on our bikes. We did, however, end up seeing Kofuku-ji Temple (興福寺) and Todai-ji Temple (東大寺) as we made our way around the park.

Feeding the deer was something that Sharon and I were really looking forward to. There are plenty of stalls around the park selling deer biscuits for ¥150 and we initially bought a stack of deer biscuits each. However, I gave away my first stack of biscuits too quickly (haha) so I bought another one shortly afterwards.

While one deer did try to nibble on my jacket (and some apparently bite), they're mostly well behaved and easy to approach. The deer absolutely LOVE the biscuits sold in the park, so if you want to maximise your chance of getting a good photo while interacting with a deer, keep them out of sight. Otherwise, you'll find them coming up to you when they see the biscuits in your hands. Some will even chase after you for them! ★Tip: Try bowing to a deer before feeding them because most deer will bow back to you. However, don't forget to actually give the deer a biscuit once they've done so.

For lunch, we didn't find any restaurants that we particularly liked so we just opted for a quick bite on Sanjo Dori Street (三条通). The one food place I did want to visit was Nakatanidou (中谷堂), a famous mochi shop where they show their mochi pounding in action. We didn't even need to look where Nakatanidou was because it was basically next to restaurant we had lunch at. I can't remember how much the mochi was, but it was relatively cheap and OMG—it was one of the best mochi I've ever had. Sharon and I just bought one to share because we figured that it would be too much for us to have one each since Sharon's not much of a sweet tooth. However, we both agreed that it was really good and a little part of me even wanted to get another one (hehe). If you happen to be in town, don't forget to visit Nakatanidou because it's definitely worth the hype!

Although we planned to spend the whole day in Nara, we only ended up staying to around 3:00pm because we were pretty tired by the end of it and couldn't be bothered venturing anywhere further. But as we were heading towards the station, there was some tea tasting and promotion event on, so we tried some some tea since we were there and even lined up with kids to a photo with the city's mascot, Shikamaro-kun (しかまろくん) before leaving (hahaha).

Nara Rent-A-Cycle
1F, 22-1 Takamaichi-cho, Nara City 630-8238
630-8238 奈良市 高天市町22-1, 1F

Nakatanidou (中谷堂)
29 Hashimotocho, Nara 630-8217
630-8217 奈良市 橋本町29

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