Staff Picks - A Day Out in Nara

On our way back from MyDome Osaka where we spent a day meeting people from the JET programme, ODIGO's newest staff memberJenny and I detoured through Nara on our way home to Tokyo.
I didn't really know much about Nara except that it’s full of deer. I was surprised at how easy it was to get to Kintetsu Nara Station, the best place to start exploring the city. Jenny and I split up for the day, she went off to explore theNara Park areaand I spent the day exploring Naramachi.

With it’s well-maintained old buildings, tranquil atmosphere and many little boutiques to explore, my day in Nara couldn’t have been more pleasant. I rounded it off with a trip to Sarusawa Pond to reflect on the day, and for the first time I saw some turtles swimming in the pond! The Naramachi area certainly makes for a pleasant day's stroll. The buildings are historical, pretty, and on the day I went, the streets were pretty sleepy! The shops are like treasure troves, filled to the brim with beautiful craft products. There's a good mix of galleries, museums, and places to eat and drink.
Here are my top 3 highlights of the day -
Hiyori - Full of beautiful gifts: one of the things I love about Japanese arts and crafts is how un-souvenir like they are. Hiyori specialise in delicate blotting paper, of which you get a free sample when you buy any product. I picked up some brush pens and a small hanko case for my friend.
Cafe Maru - the day I visited It was a particularly scorchingly hot. After a few hours of wandering around I stopped here for a bit of respite. I’m more a savoury person than sweet but with the blistering heat outside I couldn’t help but go for the delicious sounding dish of black sesame seed ice cream and pancakes.

Kauri - Utsuwa Stationery Antique - It was the handmade pottery in the window that caught my eye, but the fact that they also sold stationery made it even better! One of the things I really enjoyed about Nara overall, was how friendly the shop owners are. They want you to browse, to touch and feel their products. I ended up buying some special stationery to remember the day.

Oh, and can you believe I didn’t see a single deer during my trip?! That's my top tip for those, who are afraid of the deer or not keen on animals, stick to the Naramachi area and you'll probably avoid them all like I did.

Check out some of my favourite spots in Japan on my ODIGO profile!