The city of Nara, with a population of around 370.000 citizens, is located in the prefecture of Nara, Kansai, West Japan. Despite of being a larger city, it always feels and looks rural and tranquil to me whenever I am able to visit this gem. In the midst of a most beautiful mountainside and forestal area, Nara indeed may look like a relic of a long gone era. Apart from all the cars that is.

Getting to Nara is quite easy, as a tourist you may want to take the JR Line Rapid Service via Kyoto to Nara, which takes around 45 minutes only. From Osaka, you´ll need roughly one hour to Nara. I usually go there by train or take the bus from Kyoto.

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I still remember the first time I visited Nara. I was, just as most of the foreign tourists visiting this place, amazed by all the deer that populate the city just as much as its (human) citizens do. You´ll be able to see deer taking sunbaths in gardens, on the streets, sidewalks. Gladly, car drivers manage to dodge them if one decides to take a break on the street. As timid as a fawn? Nope, not here. Those animals are so very friendly, if you buy one of the deer cookies that are being offered along the street leading towards the Todai-ji, they may chase you up and down the road. Been there, done that, got the workout, made it out alive ;).

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The official deer representative of Nara : “Please visit Nara – and buy us some cookies”

How to get there:

Best way to get to the temple grounds is to take the bus to the “Todaiji Daibutsuden” stop, which takes you right to the adjacent park, from which it takes just a couple of minutes for you to walk to the temple. For sure you can also take a walk from Nara station to the park, but this may take around 40 minutes.

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The Todai-ji

The Todai-ji (ji = temple) was built during the Nara era, which lasted from 710 to 794 A.D. Originally constructed as one of the official state temples of Emperor Shomu (724 to 749) in the year 728, founded by bishop Roben and is up to date the highest temple of the buddhist Kegon. What makes this temple so special is the fact that it is made out of wood and remains the world´s largest wooden temple with a height of 160ft and length of 187ft.

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The 50 ft Vairocana Buddha statue inside of the temple´s main hall consists of gold-plated bronze, has been completed in the year 752, but in between had to be repaired several times. Its hands, for example, were replaced during Momoyama era (1568-1615), its head originates the edo era (1615-1867).

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The main hall is the third generation, being “only” 2/3 of its original size. During wars in 1180 and 1567, the hall in which the Buddha is located in, got destroyed. And yet it remains the world´s biggest (and for sure most impressive) wooden construction to present day.

Data:

Temple, national heritage

  • height ~ 49 m
  • width ~ 50 m
  • length ~ 57 m

Buddha, national heritage, 8th century

  • height ~ 15m
  • head ~ 5m
  • eye size ~ 1m
  • ear size ~ 2,50m

Nara is a truly enchanting town, and I do recommend a visit if you´re in Western Japan, also because it´s quite close to Osaka and Kyoto and a great addition your travel experience.

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3-2-1-K.O? Please be aware that Nara deer are apparently not only trained assassins with Ninja skills but also wildlife animals. For your own safety, treat them with respect and be careful not to make them angry.

Opening hours:

08:00-16:30 (November-February)

08:00-17:00 (March)

07:30-17:30 (April-September)

07:30-17:00 (October)

Entrance Fee: 500 Yen

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I do agree with this deer fellow, the icecream is really tasty. Tage a plunge and try the lavender icecream, it´s delicious.
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