On Tuesday 12th December 2017 we took a day trip to Nara. We decided to combine this with a trip to Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine which is famous for the many orange prayer gates (torii gates) that line the route to various shrines up the mountain. We were told to get their early to avoid the crowds and so arrived at the shrine at around 8am which meant we were one of the only people there. This did make a difference to be able to enjoy the effect of the torii gates without tonnes of people and also allowed us to get some good photos.
We then spent the next hour or so walking around the giant complex that leads up into the mountain where there are a number of small shrines and more torii gates to see. The fox is the spirit animal at this temple and symbolises the growing of crops and so there were a number of fox statues holding a grain of wheat or rice in their mouths.
The temple actually went a lot further than we ended up walking but we were conscious to not spend too long here and get to Nara. Also, it involved a lot of steps so we didn’t really feel like walking all the way to the top when we would have another full day walking around to see the temples – we were really getting the miles in here!
We then got a train from Fushimi to Nara where would be spending the rest of the day. Nara was Japan’s first capital city and has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
After getting out of the station, one of the first sites we saw was Nara Pond which was very calm and was at the entrance to Nara Kōen which is the big park in the city.
The park is where the majority of the religious and historical sites can be found and runs through the city centre. This is also where around 1000 deer live. You can buy biscuits (shika sembei) which are specifically for feeding the deer and the deer will often bow to you in exchange for being fed. We didn’t buy the biscuits as the deer would often come up to you anyway until they realised you had no food. They were still wild though and could head butt people to try and get the biscuits when some tourists would tease the deer and not give them the food. The male deer all had their horns removed for this reason or they would cause some serious damage to people when they would head butt them. There were also a lot of baby deer which was very cute to see and it was nice seeing the deer amongst the temples as well.
This pagoda was five stories high and is the second tallest pagoda in Japan at 50.1 metres. It was part of a larger complex that had a few buildings in it but the pagoda was the star attraction.
This has a big gate that you walk through into the main area. There are still deer here which I just loved! The main attraction here is the Daibutsu which is the great Buddha and the Daibutsu-den Hall which is the largest wooden building in the world (and only two thirds of its original size)! The great Buddha is made of 437 tonnes of bronze and 130kg of gold and has lotus flowers surrounding it. There are also other gold statues in this hall which are also in great condition and have lovely detailing on them. This whole place is spectacularly grand and a highlight of our time in Nara and Kyoto.
We were able to try a lot of Japanese food that day when we went to the supermarket for our tea. In the first picture below… those rice triangles (called Onigiri) are made of the same rice as sushi and one has seaweed in and one had some form of pickled vegetable in. I wasn’t a huge fan as I don’t really like that sushi rice but wanted to try it as they’re a really big snack food here for packed lunches etc. There was also a giant egg roll (Tamagoyaki) which was essentially layers of eggs which reminded me a bit of an omelette and that was meant to be quite expensive if you get it on its own so it was great to be able to try the range of Japanese food that would normally be more expensive. The second photo is rice in what we think is a tofu pocket and it’s marinated in something really sweet. It’s called Inarizushi. It was really tasty and probably one of our favourite Japanese foods. We got this every time it was on offer in the supermarket during our trip.
We had a great day in Nara. It’s a great day trip from Osaka or Kyoto and the deer are really entertaining so makes this place even more interesting to go to. As we arrived into Kyoto we headed to the rooftop to have a look at the view over the city. Kyoto Station is huge and was all lit up for Christmas with a giant tree looking over the main Station floor. You can get escalators all the way to the roof and it’s a great place to get free views over the city.
Sending Love x