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Discover Kansai

Nara, World Heritage Site

As an ancient capital city of Japan, Nara City is filled with breathtaking historical sites and artifacts. It was here during the Nara period of Japan's history (710 to 794) that many Chinese influences made their way into Japan, including the heavy adoption of Buddhism. Being such a historically significant place, Nara is home to 8 sites that collectively form the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara"; a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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The Fantastic Approach to Kasuga Taisha Shrine

From Kintetsu-Nara Station, one can head straight down the main road to the main temple district of Nara City. The main torii gate that leads to Kasuga Taisha Shrine is truly fantastic. Hedged with ancient stone lanterns, the approach really lets you feel like you are walking into a place from antiquity. And in fact, you are! Kasuga Taisha Shrine was opened on November 9, in 768, as a place to enshrine several gods.Whilst the surrounding area is free, the main shrine area of Kasuga Taisha Shrine can be entered for ¥500. Here I could get an up-close look at the buildings and the shrines of the gods. The buildings are impeccably well maintained despite their age, as by tradition they were restored every 20 years. My highlight was a darkened room filled with hundreds of lanterns.Besides the large ancient stone lanterns, there are also many small metal lanterns adorning the shrine.

These are donated by people in prayer. Both the stone lanterns and the smaller lanterns are only illuminated twice per year, during festivals. These festivals occur in early February and the middle of August. Even without illumination, the ancient moss covered stone lanterns are mythical, so I was sure to make a memo of this. This is certainly where I will come next February!

The Deer of Nara Park

Continuing toward Todai-ji Temple, I enjoyed a walk through Nara Park and came across many deer. The deer of Nara are believed to be heavenly creatures, and so enjoy free reign. They are not at all people shy, and are safe. You can buy rice crackers for them, and they will even bow in request! The lonely ones further from the main road seem more photogenic, so it was good to verge of the main path.

Nara City’s Todai-ji Daibutsu-den, One of the Largest Wooden Structures in the World

Nara City’s Todai-ji Daibutsu-den, standing 25.46 metres tall is one of the largest wooden structures in the world. First built in 752, it was twice burnt down in war. The current building was built in the Edo Period, and is 3/4 of the original size. The grand size of the temple is matched by it’s contents. After reading this, I took another good look and was able to feel its power. I guess we are used to skyscrapers so the sheer size doesn’t shock as much. Imagine the awe people must have felt in the year 752. Inside Todai-ji Daibutsu-den is one of Japan’s largest statues of Buddha. At 15 meters tall, it is truly magnificent. Besides the Daibutsu, two large buddavista statues are also on display, as well as a model of Todai-ji Temple.

Nara city’s “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara" is a collection of eight historically significant sites. Five of these temples are found near Kintetsu-Nara Station. Fortunately, Nishinokyo Station is conveniently placed to allow easy access. From Kintetsu-Nara Station, I took a short 10-minute train ride (with a transfer at Yamato-Saidaiji) to Nishinokyo.

Yakushi-ji Temple

A short hop from Nishinokyo Station we find the UNESCO World Heritage Yakushi-ji Temple. The complex is very large and purposefully symmetrical. It was first built in the 7th century, but has been rebuilt due to damage. The eastern pagoda however has avoided damage and dates all the way back to the year 730. Just my luck though, its undergoing maintenance until 2020. Well, good timing for the Tokyo Olympics I suppose.

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry\'s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus leo ante, consectetur sit amet vulputate vel, dapibus sit amet lectus. Besides from the main hall and the two pagodas, there are a few smaller buildings and treasure houses. Yakushi-ji is also home to a gallery of work by the praised, recently deceased Japanese painter Hirayama Ikuo.

I find the most convenient access to Nara City is by Kintetsu-Nara Station. Kintetsu Railways operates services from Osaka, Kyoto or Nagoya, and their station is within walking distance and closest to the temple districts. The station area also has an arcade with many restaurant and souvenir shops as well.Nara City is filled with so much history it is impossible to see everything in a single visit. But with its ease of access, especially by the Kintetsu Railway Line, it’s a top travel destination for anyone in the Kansai area of Japan. Please enjoy the ancient history of Nara, as well as make friends with the cute deer.


Hi! I am a traveler, musician and student living in Japan. I love traveling to places I don't know much about, and then learning as much as possible whilst I'm there. I spend my spare time at home writing fiction, non-fiction and programs, so I hope you find my articles here both informative and fun to read. I first came to the Kansai region as an exchange student, and through the kind hearts of the local people, the unique cuisine and the relaxed lifestyle, the region will always hold a special place in my heart.