Today I’m going to share one of my favorite memories from our entire Spring Break trip: Nara.
Nara is a place that’s typically associated with free-roaming deer begging for rice crackers, but we found that there are a few more fun things to do in the city other than offering crumbly crackers to cute animals. We definitely went primarily to get cute instagram shots and endeering (haha, get it?) video footage of us with the deer, but ended up enjoying Nara for much more than just the animals.
So what is there to do in Nara?
1. Feeding Deer
I know I said there’s more to enjoy than just deer, but I can’t ignore this part of Nara because I’m actually a huge animal lover. The deer were the reason I wanted to go to Nara in the first place, and they definitely did not disappoint.
Deer are EVERYWHERE in the city, and freaked me out a little bit because once they see that you have rice crackers, they don’t leave you alone. I didn’t feel unsafe or threatened, but it did take me a while to get used to deer following pretty close to me, and trying to nibble at my camera strap. I did find one sweet baby deer that let me pet its head, and I felt like D.W. from “Arthur” when she became friends with Walter the deer (look it up if you’re confused).
We stayed in a hotel across the street from the train station, and didn’t actually see deer until we got to Nara Park. As soon as we reached that point, there were deer on every corner. At one spot, we saw a whole cluster of deer in a roped off area – it looked like they were in a petting zoo, but in reality, they had all just congregated in one place.
The deer are very polite, and because they’re exposed to hundreds of visitors each day, they’ve been trained to bow before accepting rice crackers and even wait for the light to change before crossing the road.
Going to Nara just to see and feed the deer is totally worth it.
2. Visiting Todaiji Temple:
Another temple?! Yep.
Todaiji, also known as the “Great Eastern Temple,” is one of Nara’s famous and most significant landmarks.
The main hall, or Daibutsuden, is the biggest wooden building in the world, which is crazy when you realize that the reconstruction of the building (done in 1692) is actually only 2/3 the size of the original structure.
When we got there, we tried to take video to show the massive size of the hall to put in our vlog, but like a lot of things, you just gotta witness it in real life. Inside the building is one of Japan’s largest bronze buddhas – it’s 15 meters tall and very impressive.
If you’re not sure how big 15 meters is, think about this: the hand of the buddha alone is 2.5 meters, which converts to a little over 8 feet. Yeah, it’s huge.
Admission to the temple is 500 yen, and definitely worth checking out when you’re in Nara.
3. Eating Kakinoha-Zushi:
Translated as “persimmon leaf sushi,” kakinoha-zushi is Nara’s premier unique delicacy. The process of creating kakinoha-zushi is different than what you would find at a shop selling fresh sushi, and definitely has a distinct taste to it.
The fish (usually salmon or mackerel) is cured and then put inside rice, and then that is wrapped in a persimmon leaf. I read somewhere that persimmon leaves hold antibacterial qualities, and the scent of the leaves end up attaching to the sushi – which makes it taste better.
Whatever the reason, it was definitely an experience trying the kakinoha-zushi. It was packaged very beautifully – each piece delicately wrapped and placed in a perfect box to either take for yourself or give as a gift – and such a fun way to enjoy one of our favorite Japanese foods. I definitely prefer eating fresh sushi, but this is something I’m glad we took the time to do in Nara.
There are a lot of different shops that sell it, and it’s definitely not difficult to find.
Try it out & let us know what you think!
4. Visiting the Nara National Museum:
The Nara National Museum is by no means the best museum we’ve been to, but is still a good way to spend some time in Nara (like maybe 45 minutes to an hour). Caleb wasn’t a huge fan of the museum, but I liked the exhibit dedicated to different types of buddha statues. Photography and video were strictly prohibited, so we were only able to get a shot of the outside.
While we were there, one of the museum wings was closed for renovations, so be sure to check to see how much of the museum is actually open to visitors!
Other Nara Things:
There are, of course, so many other things that we didn’t check out during our day in Nara. If you’re interested and have more time, be sure to check these other places out as well!
|Open 24 hours||FREE!|
Nov – Feb: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
March: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Apr – Sep: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
October: 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Nara National Museum:
|9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.||Closed on Mondays & January 1st||520 yen|