We took a day trip to Nara while staying in Osaka. The train ride isn't terribly long (if you don't accidentally go the wrong way for 45 minutes, like we did!) and if you leave early, it gives you plenty of time to play in Nara before heading back home.
If you are traveling to Nara by train, you can take the JR, stop at the Tsuruhashi Station and hope onto the Kintetsu Railway and get off at Kintetsu Nara Station. It's only about a five minute walk to Deer Park. I am a walker, so I walked to Nara Park from the JR Nara train station, as did seemingly a lot of people. It's about a 20 minute walk to the park from there, but I enjoyed it.
You might feel a little nervous that you won't know the way to the park from the station, but there are signs along the way and also, it's almost guaranteed that you won't be the only Nara Park visitor/s getting off of the train. If in doubt, follow the masses and they will get you going in the right direction. Once you get passed the first few roads outside of the train station, it is a very straight forward path, anyway. There's not much of a chance to get lost.
Obviously, one of the most popular things to do here is feed the deer. There are little vendors selling the treats throughout the park and please do heed to the signage! Deer certainly can attack you at any given moment. If you don't give them more and they want more, they may get aggressive and start biting your clothes or even headbutt you. It can be comical, yes, but it can also be dangerous, so please be cautious as they are still wild animals. But I must admit, it is absolutely adorable to bow to a deer and have them bow back. Definitely treat-worthy, in my opinion. So I do recommend it, just be careful!
I am a huge picnic kind of person and while I have never picnicked here, I did see several people who were. So if that is something you enjoy, you might think about packing a nice little lunch or snack and eat along the way, enjoying the park in the process. One thing I would recommend with this is to find a spot that isn't overcrowded with deer. They might feel like intruding on your lunch if they see you eating. Make sure you have an extra bag with you for your trash that you can carry until finding a garbage can!
Shrines, shrines and shrines!
We had absolutely no time limit when we took our day trip and I would recommend the same. The area is so large that exploring it at your own pace is quite nice. Not having to worry about catching certain trains by certain times surely added to the easy going exploration I dived into.
We kept following the pathway further and further into the trees and the trees certainly began to grow thicker. We passed so many shrines and oh my goodness is it wonderful to see. They're beautifully decorated with natural moss and so are some of the massive trees you get to see along the way.
Kofukuji temple has the lovely five story pagoda, which is Japan's second tallest pagoda. It's free to wander the grounds, but to get into the National Treasure Museum and Eastern Golden Hall, there is a fee. If you have time and funds, I recommend going inside. The museum houses the Ashura Statue, which is quite neat.
Todaiji, "Great Eastern Temple", is a nice sight and known for being the world's largest wooden building. Some of the attractions here are free, some have entrance fees. The grounds are pretty to stroll through.
If you keep on trekking through the park, you will come to Kasuga Taisha, a beautiful shrine. You can enter the offering hall for free, and you can pay to get further into the buildings. It's really pretty if you do have the time and funds to go inside. The surrounding area is very beautiful. We continued walking, even passed the shrine, and the dirt pathway began to get a bit more rocky and a little less traveled. Less traveled is where most of my adventures come from and this was no exception.
The surrounding nature lifted my spirits and the breeze created a snowglobe-like atmosphere of sakura petals. It was such an enjoyable walk, even after twisting my knee and pulling several muscles around it! So please do watch your footing, I wouldn't recommend twisting your knee!
Eventually, the trees began to give way and we seemed to have reached the end of the trail, exiting into a charming little residential area.
We followed the sidewalk down and stopped at a cute house-converted-restaurant. The service is excellent and the food as well, so take a break after all of that walking! If you're hungry, that is. Step inside, remove your shoes, and take a seat. Make sure to drink plenty of water to prepare for your trek back down. If you miss this restaurant, not to worry. There are plenty of restaurants along the streets and it isn't hard to find a place to eat.
If you keep following the sidewalk, you'll eventually run into signs pointing you toward the park. You will hang a right, as per arrow direction, and come back to an area of the park you may have missed before if you took the trail all the way up.
Gorgeous ponds and trees, plenty of bridges to walk around on and amazing photo ops.
After walking enough through this newly discovered area of the park, things began to look familiar again and this is where I finally decided to make my way back to the train station. I bought myself a bottled water and headed back. I would recommend taking water with you, if you're carrying a bag. That much walking can work up quite the thirst.
Thus concludes my day trip to Nara. I got back to Osaka around dinner time, so it really did take most of my day. You can shorten or lengthen your time there by picking and choosing what you want to really see or skip, or by how fast you move from one thing to another.
This is an easy trip to take and one of those areas I never completely felt lost, even when I had no idea where I was or where I was going. So take your time and enjoy what Nara Park has to offer!
*All photos are my own www.traipsingtara.wordpress.com *