After seeing Kathryn’s photos of so many deer roaming free around beautiful Nara, it became my top destination while we were in Japan!
Off we go!
How adorable is this picture on the train?!
40 minutes later and we’d arrived in Nara!
Japan’s first permanent capital was established in the year 710 at Heijo, the city now known as Nara. As the influence and political ambitions of the city’s powerful Buddhist monasteries grew to become a serious threat to the government, the capital was moved to Nagaoka in 784.
Due to its past as the first permanent capital, it remains full of historic treasures, including some of Japan’s oldest and largest temples.
Check out the Kofukuji Temple!
It used to be the family temple of the Fujiwara, the most powerful family clan during most of the Nara and Heian Periods. The temple was established in Nara at the same time as the capital in 710. At the height of Fujiwara power, the temple consisted of over 150 buildings!
Today a couple of buildings of great historic value remain, including a five storey and three storey pagoda.
As it was raining rather heavily, we decided to explore the National Treasure Museum located next door. Unfortunately photos weren’t permitted in there, but it was a small and interesting museum. It exhibits part of the temple’s great Buddhist art collection and statues. Among the many outstanding exhibits is the three-faced, six-armed Ashura Statue, which is one of the most celebrated Buddhist statues in Japan.
As the rain continued to fall when we returned to the great outdoors…
…we decided to do a little people watching before entering the temple.
Again, you’re not allowed to take photos in temples, but Ry’s a bit of a rebel 😉
We then decided to check out the area a little more.
This is the Octagonal Hall which originally dates back over a thousand years!
The building also houses some of the temple’s treasured artifacts which are only open to the public a few days a year.
April 3rd was not one of them.
A friend who recently went to Japan informed me that these small graves with the red cloths were for miscarriages, abortions and the loss of a child’s life.
Having had enough of the rain, we looked around some souvenir stalls which sold so many awesome deer-themed goodies!
I’d bought so many and got so excited that I’d forgotten to take a photo of the stalls.
So here’s some kimonos instead 😉
We also came across this charming restaurant.
As we both love home-cooked food and were in no rush to return to the downpour, we decided to give it a go.
Ry went for the pork chop curry, while I had a delicious beef stew.
It may not win any prizes for its appearance, but it tasted fantastic!
(Could have done with a bit more meat and veg though).
After a lazy lunch, we wandered around the shops and Naramachi (literally ‘Nara Town’) which is the former merchant district, where several traditional residential buildings and warehouses are preserved and open to the public.
Boutiques, shops, cafes, restaurants and a few museums now line the district’s narrow lanes.
Ry had been keen to see some traditional Japanese houses, so this was right up his street 😉
We then excitedly made our way over to Nara Park, passing a picturesque pond on the way.
Watch out for deer crossing the road!
We bought some deer crackers and they smelled surprisingly delicious.
Nara Park is located in central Nara and it is home to hundreds of free roaming deer.
According to legend, the Shinto god of Kasuga Taisha came to Nara Park riding a white deer in the past, therefore the deer enjoy protected status as messengers from the gods.
The deer have become a symbol of the city and have even been designated as a national treasure.
They are tame, however they can become aggressive if they think you will feed them.
It’s all going swimmingly…
…until they start nipping and jumping at you.
It’s actually quite frightening!
Especially when they chase you even when you’re out of crackers!
Ry decided to give it a go as we were meant to be sharing the crackers, but I essentially threw the last pieces at them as I was totally outnumbered and they were getting a bit aggressive!
Anyway we went off to buy another packet of crackers…
Ry was much better with the deer, as he just pushed them away if they were getting too excited.
They could probably sense my fear.
Here’s Ry feeding our mate, Gunter.
We even managed to get a couple of cheeky selfies with him!
Nara Park is also popular during the cherry blossom season.
I’m sure you can see why 😉
Next up, we came across the beautiful Isuien Garden.
Isuien means ‘garden founded on water’ and the garden’s name is derived from the fact that its ponds are fed from the small adjacent Yoshikigawa River.
Our next port of call was Kasuga Taisha, Nara’s most celebrated Shinto shrine.
We also came across more deer. However these were more timid as there weren’t any deer cracker stalls nearby, so they weren’t as used to being fed/ aggressive as the Nara Park gang.
The Shinto shrine was established at the same time as the capital and is dedicated to the deity responsible for the protection of the city.
Kasuga Taisha is famous for its lanterns, which have been donated by worshipers.
Hundreds of bronze lanterns can be found hanging from the buildings, while many stone lanterns line the approach.
Beyond the shrine’s offering hall, there is a paid inner area which provides a closer view of the shrine’s inner buildings.
However we just stuck to the free areas.
Lots of wishes and prayers!
Casual walk through the woods.
After quite a long walk, we ended back in Central Nara and took a few snaps among the gorgeous cherry blossoms.
Oh, and here are some of the deer-themed souvenir stalls that I mentioned earlier.
Ry was intrigued by these snacks, which were thick seaweed crackers, amongst other savoury flavours.
I popped into a shop for literally a minute and when I came out, Ry had managed to find himself MORE TAKOYAKI BALLS!
For a quick dinner, we settled on sushi which was pretty yum 🙂
As we headed back to Namba, we couldn’t resist another little wander around Dotonbori…
Standing while eating ramen doesn’t sound very appealing to me, but we noticed a few tiny restaurants and bars like this.
As we’d had some problems booking hotels for more than a night online due to the busy cherry blossom season in Osaka, we were left with Yoshi’s House.
Turns out, I may have accidentally booked us into a love hotel.
It was quite an experience with its retro interior and a delightful smoky smell lingering in the air.
Oh, and some mood music.
Annoyingly, it turned out that when we asked if 4 nights were actually available at the lovely Washington Namba Hotel, it turned out that there were. They just weren’t available online 😦
Although it was pretty funny, we wouldn’t recommend Yoshi’s House, despite its great location in Namba. You could get a decent hotel for that price.
Plus the toilet was a hole in the ground with a picture of a naked lady watching you so…