Nara, Japan – Heijo Palace & Todaiji Temple

Day Trip to Nara City

For my day trip to Nara, I met up with a few travel companions, Fred & Gert, from Belgium. Fred and I met earlier this year at a hostel in Pai, Thailand. Fast forward a few months and we both ended up in Japan! Isn’t that the greatest part of traveling, making lifelong connections! These days its as easy as posting “Hey I’ll be in Japan next week in the Kansai Region, send me a message so we can meet up!”. Its like Magic! Yea, you never know if, when or where you’ll see each other again, but taking that step to connect just in case the opportunity arises in the future is totally worth it! You can follow my Instagram @darlingtongraphs, I post all kinds of nonsense there.

Honestly, I didn’t really research anything about Nara at the time, although I knew it was a popular destination for travelers. I relied mostly on table talk from other guests at my hostel, Peace House Sakura. I do regret not going to the National Museum of Nara, I missed that, but overall I was in for a nice day when I left early April 20th to meet with Fred and Gert at the Kyoto central train station. The train ride took just under an hour to Kintetsu Nara Station and the day was hot with clear blue skies!

The Todai-ji Temple has a guide map of Nara Park that you can download as a PDF which includes many temples and shrines you’ll see on your stroll through the park. Or you can pick up a map from the information booth too so you don’t miss any sights!

Here is a quick summary of what to see in Nara!

The City of Nara

The city is quite spacious, sprawling out over a countryside landscape. Its definitely a walk-able city. I think it took us just a few hours of walking time to tour the perimeter of the city and see all the sights. With a population of just under 370,000, it’s a very quaint and comfortable city with mild temperatures in the spring. It was also surprisingly new, with modern neighborhoods just down the road from the busy city center jammed packed with historic monuments.

Nara is known for having beautiful Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines in addition to having once been the seat of power during the Nara period of 710 to 794 AD.  The Heijo Palace is a recreation that is quite grand is size and built using traditional building techniques. The Palace grounds is part of a larger excavation and heritage restoration project and is located to the west of the train station. The authentic craftsmanship and quality really fosters the impression of being in a place of great importance, a regal and powerful place.

Nara Park Gallery

The other big attraction lies to the east of the train station: Nara Park. The city’s park is a popular place for the 1,200 sacred white spotted deer famous for being super friendly and polite; bowing to receive crackers from guests! Indeed, very Japanese Deer. Some of the school kids on a field trip were teasing the deer with crackers creating a small following of hungry deer to congregate at the shops! Within the park you can find many  of the city’s most impressive temples and shrines. The national museum of Nara (2nd Link), Isuien Garden and Sarusawa Pond are also a stones toss from the park. On a sunny day, it’s a really beautiful place to walk around, eat ice-cream and learn a little Japanese History.  The next page is a little bit more detail on the Heijo Palace and Todai-ji Temple, enjoy!. 

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