Roots of Japan

Nara

Ask Japanese people and many will tell you they have visited Nara on a school trip.It is always bustling with tourists who, no matter the time of year, come to see the many temples and shrines, including the famous Great Buddha.Nara, however, does not have an airport.So, if you plan to travel by air, you will need to come via Kansai International Airport or Itami Airport.When traveling by train, the shinkansen to Kyoto station or Osaka station is the most common route.

Nara has an approximate area of 3,690㎢ and an estimated population of 1.34 million people.
The prefecture is known for fluctuating temperatures that vary greatly throughout the year and even throughout the day.Annual rainfall is low and even the Nara Basin doesn’t get a lot of snow.However, the Gojo, Yoshino and Uda areas do get a good amount of snow and there are several ski resorts.Snow in these areas can affect various transportation systems.Being an inland prefecture, it is rare for the area to be affected by typhoons.Let’s now take a look at some of Nara’s interesting attractions.

Nara, a popular destination for school trips, and an area that includes several world heritage sites, is just packed with things to see and do.Here is our list of the top ten attractions.
1/ Todaiji Temple
2/ Kasugataisha Shrine
3/ Kofukuji Temple
4/ Horyuji Temple
5/ Nara Park
6/ Isuien Garden
7/ Heijo Palace Site
8/ Nara Prefecture Complex of Manyo Culture
9/ Mitarai Valley
10/ Tanize Suspension Bridge

As you can see, many of these popular attractions include temples.You may have heard of some of them before, or even visited them on a school trip in the past.Many students on school trips will visit Todaiji Temple, home to the famous Great Buddha.Todaiji and Kofukuji temples are located within Nara Park.The deer in this park are famous for not being afraid to approach humans.One of the more unusual tourist attractions in Nara is the Tanize Suspension Bridge.If you’re looking for a thrill during your visit to Nara, take a walk on this bridge!It’s 54 meters in height, approximately 300 meters in length and its width only allows for two people.Visitors might find themselves feeling a bit weak at the knees as they make their way across.It’s a great place to visit for those wanting a break from visiting temples and shrines.

Did you know that there is a lot of Kofun (ancient burial mounds) in Nara?During the Kofun, Asuka and Nara Periods, the central government was based in Nara, this is why there are so many Kofun.Let’s look at some of the Kofun to be found in Nara, which are still in good condition today.
1/ Fujinoki Tomb
2/ Ishibutai Tomb
3/ Kitora Tomb
4/ Takamatsuzuka Tomb
5/ Hashihaka Tomb

We could only list five here but a great number of Kofun can be found throughout the region.Many tourists enjoy touring round all the Kofun sites in Nara.Fujinoki Tomb has often found itself in the spotlight due to the interesting archaeological artifacts discovered within it.The tomb is estimated to have been built in the sixth century, but it is not clear who exactly is buried there. Ishibutai Kofun is a tomb made with huge stones laid horizontally and is the largest known Yokoana or corridor-type tomb in Japan.Many tourists come to see this beautiful historical site.If you visit Nara in spring, visit Ishibutai Kofun, famous for its beautiful cherry blossoms and nighttime illuminations.

Let’s now see some of Nara’s other famous cherry blossom spots.The region is packed with places where you can enjoy cherry blossoms against the backdrop of temples or shrines or surrounded by incredible scenery.If you plan to visit Nara in spring, come and visit one of these beautiful locations!
1/ Mt. Yoshino
2/ Tanzan Shrine
3/ Hasedera Temple
4/ Takada Senbonzakura
5/ Isonokami Jingu Shrine Park

Mt Yoshino is Nara’s most famous cherry blossom spot.Around 30,000 cherry trees cover the mountain that is often called Japan’s best cherry blossom viewing spot.The phrase "Hitome Senbon”, used to describe the cherry blossoms in Yoshino, means that you can see over 1,000 cherry trees at a glance.The blossoms are lit up at night, creating magical scenery for visitors to enjoy.If you are visiting Nara with your sweetheart, we recommend visiting in the evening.Takada “Senbonzakura”, meaning 1,000 cherry trees, refers to the cherry blossoms found along the Takada river.Beautiful cherry trees that are over 70 years old extend for 2.5km on either side of the river.How about coming to this special place to spend some time and take a leisurely stroll?Nara Park, which we mentioned above, is also a good spot for blossoms, so when you visit Todaiji Temple, take a walk around the park, too.

Next, let’s look at the best places to see autumn colors.Many of the popular cherry blossoms spots are also known for their beautiful autumn foliage.Here we’ll highlight some places not included on the previous list.
1/ Shoryakuji Temple
2/ Muroji Temple
3/ Torimiyama Park
4/ Mitarai Valley
5/ Takatori Castle Ruins

The main hall and five-storied pagoda of Muroji Temple have been designated as national treasures.The spectacular autumn colors alongside these national treasures has made it a popular destination for many.The nighttime illumination during autumn foliage season is also a must-see!When thinking of the best places to see autumn colors, valleys and ravines will come to the minds of many people and in Nara, Mitarai Valley is the place to visit.Sparkling emerald green waters contrasting with red and orange foliage is simply amazing.Walking trails along the river are well maintained, so how about a relaxing walk while you enjoy the beautiful surroundings?You can even take photos of the beautiful foliage from a suspension bridge!

Lastly, let’s take a look at Nara’s local cuisine.It’s easy to focus mostly on the many world heritage sites in Nara, but it is also a great place to enjoy food.Make time to enjoy both!
1/ Yubeshi (Miso Stuffed Citrus Dumpling)
2/ Shishinabe (Shishijiru) (wild boar hot pot)
3/ Nyumen (somen noodles in hot broth)
4/ Kokumai Curry
5/ Manyo-oyaki (dumplings with lightly flavored vegetables)

Nyumen is a hot soup made with Somen noodles, which you may have eaten before.Nara's Nyumen noodles are said to have originated at the foothills of Mt Miwa.Come and try Nara’s Nyumen and see if you can taste the difference between them and the usual Somen noodles. You might be surprised!Manyo-oyaki made with a blend of wheat and buckwheat flour, contains a variety of seasonal vegetables and has a pleasant texture.It would also make a good souvenir to take home with you.

While reading about Nara's world heritage sites, historical tourist attractions, beautiful spots to see blossoms or autumn colors and the local cuisine, did you come across somewhere you would like to visit or food you would like to try?The beautiful scenery in Nara changes with each passing season, so be sure to plan more than one visit.

It is my opinion and summary. Please acknowledge that there are various opinions.