Recently I went on a road trip through part of Japan one of our stops was Nara!
The top attraction in Nara is definitely the DEER! also known as Shika in Japan. They can be found in Nara Park as well as all of the other main attractions in Nara. There are many deer waiting for you to feed them shika senbei. shika senbei is a type of cracker made for the deer to eat and the money you spend buying them goes toward taking care of the deer. please feed them only shika senbei though! or vegetables they like that too but many people feed them plastic and paper! it's not good and will make them sick and possibly kill them. Let's take care of the deer in Nara park!
They surround you like this if you have food in your hands!
Nara is home to many UNESCO World Heritage sites. Nara park itself is considered part of the world heritage! The first place we visited was Todai-ji. Todai-ji is a very large temple that was founded by Emperor Shomu between 724 and 749 the first half of the 8th century!
It is also home to one of the largest Buddha statues in the world it is called Nara Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Nara). The Daibutsu that is currently on display is actually 30% smaller than the original as it has experienced many damages in the years it has existed, such as fire and earthquakes. Although it is smaller than originally built it is still an awe inspiring size! the daibutsu weighs 500 tonnes (550 short tons) and is 14.98 m tall (49.1 ft). The statue is made of bronze and building this temple and statue nearly bankrupt Japan's economy in 752 because it used almost all of Japan's available bronze at the time.
Next is Kofuku-ji, Kofuku-ji is another buddhist temple in the park. It is most famous for it's 5 story pagoda. The pagoda is one of the symbols of Nara.
Kofukuji was established in 669 by the wife of the Fujiwara family. The Fujiwara family were the second most powerful family in Japan next to the Imperial family. Kofukuji was originally located in Kyoto but was moved to Nara. At the time it was in Kyoto there were once 175 buildings inside the temple! but not many survived the years unfortunately.
Inside the temple area a museum can be found where you can see many statues on display including the most popular statue Ashura. It is a little pricey for a small museum but I believe it was worth the money as every statue and treasure were gorgeous and a site to behold. Unfortunately I do not have any photos of the main halls because they were being restored and was covered and could not be seen. I hope my next visit to Nara I will be able to see Kofukuji in it's whole.
In Nara there are so many sites! You will need more then one day to see everything, unfortunately we were only there for one day and many things were closed because we went on a sunday. On the Weekend many of the temples are closed so it is best to go on a week day. There is so much to see within the park such as Kasuga Taisha shrine, the Kasuga Taisha botanical garden, Yakushi-ji temple, Heijo palace grounds, and much more!
I highly recommend taking a full day to go a nature walk or hike in the Kasuga Primeval forest. We took a short walk through part of it but you need a full day to get through most of it!
The Kasuga Primeval forest is considered a World Heritage also and it is filled with many ancient trees and plants and even has rare animals such as the clouded salamander and forest green tree frogs. It is also home to very large trees some as wide as 9 meters! (29.5 feet) and as old as 400 years or more! Unfortunately we didn't go deep enough to see trees that large! but we saw a few fairly large trees such as this one.
Kasuga forest is definitely a place to go while you are in Nara especially if you are the outdoorsy type! It makes you feel as if you were in an ancient world like the forests in Princess Mononoke. There are many sites along the way such as small shrines and waterfalls.
Sunset at Nara on Mt.Wakakusa
If you are in Nara for more than one day I highly recommend going to the top of Wakakusa you have to drive to the top or hike there but it's worth it especially to watch the sunset and to see the city at night I am sure a sunrise is equally as wonderful there too. You can see many people there with cameras and some deer are occasionally there also looking for food to eat. In the parking lot you can find vending machines and before nightfall you can find food stands selling Taiyaki and other types of street food. You can get to the Kasuga forest from the top where the parking lot is if you drove, if not you can hike from the Kasuga Taisha shrine and get to the top as well I suggest you start early because when it gets dark there are no lights in the forest to guide you! So do not stay in the forest late! Sunrise and Sunsets you should definitely drive it is my recommendation.
Nara city at night