Nara is perfectly positioned as a short day trip from Kyoto, only 35 minutes away by train using your JR Pass.
We wanted to see one main sight – the famous Nara deer. The 1,200 deer roam freely throughout Nara Park and outside the Todai-ji Temple.
In the Shinto faith, they are considered to be a messenger of the gods and are treated with respect.
Nara deer have very cleverly learnt how to bow for food. You can buy crackers from the many stalls around the park for around 200 Yen and, in polite Japanese tradition, the deer will bow before you feed them.
Most of the deer are very tame and the stags have their horns shaved blunt, but be warned: crackers can attract a hungry crowd! One had a nibble at Phil’s t-shirt and I learnt my lesson – don’t be jumpy when surrounded by a group of deers, as they will only chase after you. If in doubt, drop the food and run!
We dragged ourselves away from the deer and went to explore Nara’s other famous site, the Todai-ji Temple.
The Big Buddha Hall is the world’s largest wooden building and houses the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha.
To give a sense of just how giant this Buddha is, Buddha’s hand alone is the height of an average person.
We made our way back to the train station, past all the deer-related souvenirs and independent craft shops.
A visit to Nara is such an unusual and completely Japanese experience. Take some time out of your busy Kyoto itinerary and enjoy a relaxing half day in Nara Park.