5 Tips and Tricks when visiting Nara


If you have stumbled across this article, chances are you are interested in visiting the peaceful, benevolent deers of Japan! Whether you have just left the busy, entertaining region of Tokyo or are taking a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka, Nara is easily accessible from the latter regions with it only being a 30-1hour train ride away depending on where you are. Offering the infamous Deer Park as well as a cascade of shrines, temples, zen-gardens and street foods, Nara is a top destination for many tourists and visitors for a reason. This is the fifth series of my 5 Tips and Tricks where I explore and give non-generic advice on experiences I have undertaken. These unconventional tips and tricks will enhance your experience, or provide ideas for you to take on when you choose to visit each named location! Without further ado, welcome to my 5 Tips and Tricks when visiting Nara!
1. Hire a Bicycle
If you have followed my series, you will know that I am a huge fan of using bicycles as your primary source of transport. With Nara being such a large area full of parks, beautiful sceneries, walkways and more, a bicycle is the most efficient and perhaps entertaining way to traverse and explore this region. Situated only 5 minutes away from Nara Station, there exists a Bicycle rental store offering rental until 5:30 pm for as low as 1000 Yen. Navigating there is easy and you should not hesitate asking the Train Station receptionists for help, of whom will provide you with a map and details on how to get there in English too!
A rental bicycle from Nara!

2. Don't spend too much time at the Deer Park
Having hired your bicycle, you will find yourself riding towards the Deer Park. Riding your bike along these hills of walkways and roads is not only exhilarating but offers an experience that can only be explained by experiencing it. Once you reach the Deer Park, you can park your Bike or even walk it around with you whilst you enjoy the company of these Deer. Although peaceful and loving, it appears they lose interest in you if you do not have any food or biscuits to give them! Typically, try not to stay too long in this popular park because all around Nara, Deers roam free and true, sometimes in the places you least expect...
Myself and a deer at the Deer Park

3. Visit the shrines and temples on your Bicycle

With your bicycle at your disposal, time is not of the essence and you can easily navigate shrines and temples without too much hassle. Visiting the myriad of sights within Nara on your bicycle is not only time efficient but fun as well, offering a much more convenient experience. Try your hand at riding through these gardens and shrine regions as you will be faced with many fun slopes and locals laughing with you as you take in all of the sights present. Deer are also present throughout each of these sights so if you feel like you have not had enough of them, now is your chance to play with them!
Easily reachable on your bicycle, shrines and views like this are nothing short of spectacular!

4. Visit during the Winter Season
I know I know. This is probably one of the most impractical pieces of advice considering many tourists like to visit Japan, let alone Nara in the Summer or spring where the weather is more warm and convenient. If however you find yourself in Japan or more specifically Nara in the Winter, then you have possibly hit the jackpot. Held on the fourth Saturday of January, Nara is host to the famous but rather unknown to tourists- Yamayaki (Grass Burning Festival). Held annually, this festival begins at 5:30pm attracting huge crowds there to witness the burning of a mountain. Yes you heard me correctly. This burning of a mountain is followed by a huge fireworks display- and I mean huge. These fireworks are far greater than any I have ever experienced in my life, so much so that the earth beneath you literally shakes. What can only be described as one of the best experiences of your life, these moments and sights before you are those that will stay with you for the rest of your life so make sure you get in early at the base of the mountain and secure yourself a nice vantage point. After leaving this experience, take a stroll back down to Nara where the streets are littered with street-food vendors due to this festive evening! Try out some famous Osakan food or something new, there is something for everyone!
The Yamayaki Festival, behind these treetops a path of fire burns brightly across the mountain- Captured on my phone!

5. Explore 
With your bicycle at your disposal and having visited each sight so efficiently you may find that time is on your side and you may have a few hours to spare before returning your bicycle. This is your perfect chance to literally explore, let your bicycle guide you. I urge you to ride your bicycle the opposite way of where all the tourism is and explore the neighbourhoods. Traversing through residential areas, I managed to stumble across interesting sights such as homes that sold ice-cream, hair salons, children playing soccer in the streets, other locals riding their bikes and even a Deer alone on a long stretch of road- perhaps the strangest sight I have seen! As I said, they are literally everywhere. Take your time just seeing what life may be like if you lived in this region and let your mind sonder and take this all in. You are in another country, you are free and you are having fun. These experiences and sights you may see will be those that are unplanned- and it is often the unplanned, unexpected and curiosity driven experiences that make holidays and travel in general, memorable .
Source: https://suq4y2a28lmqho672fl5ldv7-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Naramachi-Nara-machi.jpg

Hence I leave you with my 5 Tips and Tricks when visiting Nara. One of my favourite places to visit when I am in Kyoto or Osaka, I recommend this place to those looking to take a break from the business and rush of entertainment districts and those looking for a unique Japanese experience. By following my tips or even considering them, I hope that your visit to Nara will be as good, if not better than mine was and will be. Thank you for reading and look forward to my next addition to the series.
Kind regards,
Kevin Hong

Kevin Hong