This is a detailed post of my 2 weeks long solo backpacking trip to Japan. Please see preview and itinerary/index of my complete trip on this post.
Day 1 – Nara
Nara (奈良) was Japan first permanent establishment. Later due to political reasons, emphasis on development shifted from Nara. This has enabled Nara to house some of the most oldest and rich shrines and temples only next to Kyoto. Nara can be easily covered as a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto. Few people recommend to stay a few days in Nara to enjoy the place completely.
Heading to Nara from Osaka
Nara is closer to Osaka as compared to Kyoto. So it made sense for me to visit Nara before I head to my base for next few days (Kyoto). Distance between Osaka and Nara is around 35kms and it takes a little over 1 hour by train. Since I already had Kansai Thru pass, I did not have to buy any more tickets for the travel involved. As I had started pretty early for the day, by 11 AM had reached Nara.
I have been in Japan for only 10 hours by now but I had already concluded few things. Finding Vegetarian food is tough, almost every possible thing can be bought from a vending machine and coin lockers are available in abundance in all train stations.
I kept my backpack in coin lockers in Nara train station and took only my camera bag with me. Coin lockers are available in various sizes and charge is according to the size of locker. Bigger lockers cost 700Y (Can keep biggest suitcases or bags) and smaller ones costs around 300Y (can keep laptop bags). Rate of each locker is charged on per day basis and not on 24 hours basis. So if you keep your luggage before midnight 12AM, you will be charged twice.
All Nara attractions are walk-able from Kintetsu Nara station. You can also catch a bus from station but I preferred walking.I always prefer walking over small distance instead of using buses. I think it increases my exposure to local areas, people and gives me opportunity for some street photography as well.
Kofukuji temple was built in 710 and is one of the oldest temple. Main hall was destroyed due to fire and is under-construction, which is due to be completed in 2018 only. Eastern hall, a pagoda and Southern halls are only surviving buildings left of the temple.
Weather has been disappointing today. Very cloudy and no sunlight. I would have loved to shoot these marvelous temples against blue skies. Alas!
Most of Nara’s attraction are located in a big park names Nara park. Nara park is famous of deers. These deers are tamed and are friendly to visitors. Local street vendors sell some crackers food for deers for 150Y. Feeding these deers can be dangerous if many deers are attracted towards you. These deers roam freely across the city. They are smart enough to avoid roads and know how to cross in traffic. Locals proudly comment that these deer cross roads only on green lights. However I did not see any such instance.
Todaiji (東大寺) is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples and a landmark of Nara. Said to be constructed in 752, Todaiji is the not to be missed place in Nara.
Todaiji’s main hall, the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) is the world’s largest wooden building. The massive building houses one of Japan’s largest bronze statues of Buddha (Daibutsu). The 15 meters tall, seated Buddha represents Vairocana and is flanked by two Bodhisattvas.
Cherry blossom in Nara
Not really know for cherry blossom tress but I found Nara has ample cherry tree gardens. A big garden near Todaiji temple had many tress near full bloom when I visited. Well, I realized later in my trip that cherry trees are everywhere.
Heading to my base for next four days, Kyoto
After a heartily shoot of Todaiji Temple, big Buddha and its establishments, I spent some time feeding deers and clicking Sakura trees. I headed to Kyoto next using Kintetsu railways. I had already booked my stay in Kyoto. Since Cheery blossom is most popular time to visit Kyoto and all hotels/guesthouses were either booked or had over the roof tariff rates. In about three hours, after getting lost multiple times, changing a few trains and buses, I reached my stay for next four days, Oto guest house. A relatively newer make and warm setup of the guesthouse was inviting and I totally loved it at first sight.