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  • Nara is a must-see destination for those interested in traditional Japanese culture, history and temples.

  • Known for its concentration of some of the oldest and most important temples in Japan,

  • Nara is also popular for its beautiful park and hundreds of deer.

  • Located less than an hour away by train from Kyoto and Osaka, Nara is popularly visited

  • in a side trip from either of those cities, but it has also enough attractions on its

  • own to warrant an overnight stay.

  • The city's main attractions are concentrated on the grounds of its vast and scenic park

  • which is only a few minutes walk away from the Kintetsu Nara Station, or a twenty minutes

  • walk away from the JR Nara Station.

  • Here's a very general history of Nara in under 30 seconds:

  • Back in the old days, Japan's capital was moved to a new location every time there was

  • a new emperor.

  • However in 710, this custom was abolished and Nara was established as Japan's first

  • permanent capital that would outlast the reigns of emperors.

  • At this time in Japan, Buddhism was at its height, and therefore the country's most

  • important early temples are located in Nara.

  • The Buddhist temples here became so important that the government feared being overpowered

  • by them.

  • Thus, the capital was moved from Nara to Nagaoka in 784, and then to Kyoto where it would remain

  • for over 1000 years.

  • From temples to museums to deer and beautiful scenery, there is a lot to see and do in Nara.

  • To give you a place to start when planning your trip to the area, here are our top 5

  • recommended things to do in Nara.

  • Number 5: Kasuga Taisha

  • Established in 768, Kasuga Taisha was the family shrine of the Fujiwara clan, a powerful

  • aristocratic family that greatly influenced Japan's history over many centuries.

  • It is dedicated to the deity protector of the city.

  • Nestled in the forest at the edge of the city, the shrine is popular for its thousands of

  • bronze and stone lanterns, donated by worshippers over the centuries.

  • These lanterns are lit twice a year during the Lantern Festival in early February and

  • in mid August.

  • The shrine also features a prototype style of architecture that would be used when constructing

  • later shrines, known as Kasuga-zukuri.

  • Number 4: Isuien Garden

  • This beautiful Japanese garden located in central Nara has two different sections, a

  • front garden and a rear garden.

  • The front garden dates back to the 17th century and features a large tea house where visitors

  • can enjoy a cup of tea next to a pond.

  • The rear garden centered around a large pond was created more recently in 1899.

  • A pleasant network of walking paths, including bridges and stepping stones over water, lets

  • visitors stroll around and admire the garden with its well kept bushes and trees, small

  • teahouses and even a watermill.

  • The borrowed scenery of the Todaiji and Mount Wakakusayama, visible from the walking path

  • along the pond make Isuien Garden the nicest in Nara in our opinion.

  • Also, next to the garden and included in the admission fee is a museum showcasing artifacts

  • from ancient China and Korea from the collection of the family who owns Isuien Garden.

  • Number 3: Kofukuji Temple

  • This ancient temple established in Nara in 710 used to be the family temple of the Fujiwara.

  • Since the Fujiwara were the most powerful clan in the country at the time, Kofukuji

  • was also one of the most powerful temples in Japan for centuries.

  • The temple grounds features one of the tallest 5-storied pagodas in Japan, which is also

  • a symbol and landmark of Nara.

  • Kofukuji's main temple hall, the Central Golden Hall, had been destroyed by fire three

  • centuries ago, however after years of construction it was rebuilt in its original size and opened

  • to the public again in 2018 looking very nearly like it did when the Fujiwara walked its hallways.

  • Next to the Central Golden Hall lies the Eastern Golden Hall which features an impressive Buddha Statue.

  • If you are visiting Kofukuji Temple, also be sure not to miss its National Treasure

  • Museum which displays one of most impressive collections of Buddhist art in all of Japan.

  • Number 2: Nara Park

  • This wide park located in between Nara's main attractions is home to hundreds of deer

  • for which the city is famous.

  • Thought of as the messengers of the gods, deer in Nara park are so revered that they

  • have been designated as a national treasure.

  • Two times of the year when the park is exceptionally pleasant are during the cherry blossom season

  • in the first half of April when beautiful pink petals highlight many of the trees, and

  • in November when the autumn colors emerge.

  • Although the deer are mostly tame, some can be aggressive if they think you will feed

  • them, so we recommend to be careful and not to teese the deer if you are planning to buy

  • deer crackers sold at various spots throughout the park.

  • Near the entrance to the park is the National Museum, which is one of the best museums to

  • learn about Japanese Buddhism and Buddhist statues.

  • Number 1: Todaiji Temple

  • Todaiji temple is one of Japan's most prominent temples and one of Nara's main landmarks.

  • Established a few years after the capital in the 8th century, it became the head of

  • a nationwide network of temples.

  • Although Todaiji's main hall was reconstructed in 1709 on a smaller scale, it until recently

  • held the record as the world's largest wooden building, and houses a 15 meter tall bronze

  • statue of Buddha, one of the biggest Buddha statues in the country.

  • To give you an idea, the open-hand of the Buddha is as tall as a human being.

  • Inside the hall, visitors can find models of the previous construction, as well as smaller

  • Buddhist statues.

  • A popular attraction is a pillar with a hole the size of the Buddha statue's nostril.

  • If visitors manage to squeeze through, it is believed that they will reach enlightenment

  • in their next life.

  • A typical visit to Todaiji will have you start at the beautiful and large Nandaimon gate,

  • one of the largest temple entrance gates in Japan.

  • Completed in 1203, it houses two statues of the Nio Guardian Kings, both designated National

  • treasures together with the gate itself.

  • Next to the gate is the Todaiji museum exhibiting a large collection of religious and cultural

  • treasures, such as large Buddha statues.

  • Walking up the hill to the right of the main hall gets you to a few more temple halls that

  • belong to Todaiji.

  • Among them is the Nigatsudo Hall which offers scenic views of the area from its balcony.

  • This is also the main site of the Omizutori, a collection of Buddhist rituals, held annually

  • from March 1 to 14.

  • During this event, giant torches reaching up to 6 meters long are lit and carried across

  • the wooden temple's balcony.

  • We hope this top five list gives

  • you a good place to start when planning your trip to Nara.

  • For more information about any of the places mentioned in this video or to explore another

  • region, click the links on the screen now, or head over to japan-guide.com, your comprehensive,

  • up-to-date travel guide, first-hand from Japan.

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  • about Japan.

  • Happy travels!

Nara is a must-see destination for those interested in traditional Japanese culture, history and temples.

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Top 5 Things to do in Nara | japan-guide.com

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    Summer posted on 2020/07/30
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