Our Top things to do in Nara, Japan
Fresh air in Nara
Going to Nara was initially only planned to be a day trip from Osaka, but we decided to spend 2 nights there, as we felt we needed to get out of the city and breathe some fresh air. Though it’s only a 50 min train ride, you really feel that you are in the countryside. You see rice fields all the way in between residential areas traveling on the train from Osaka to Nara.
Getting Around on Bikes
We had found a good deal at a hotel in the outskirts of Nara. As we could rent bikes at the hotel, that was how we had decided to get around. The boys, being 8 and 11 had no problem finding a bike that fit, as our youngest is quite tall for his age, and the bikes generally are quite small, which made us (read: Martin) a pretty sight on bikes – big man on a small bike. But it was such an easy and great way to get around.
Our First Onsen Experience
Our first night in Nara we went to an Onsen, which you can read much more about in this blogpost, but it was a great experience with cleaning, scrubbing and soaking in different baths with water from hot springs. We topped off with a 10-minute chair massage and a great dinner at the Yarara No Yu Onsen, with mainly locals coming here.
Next day we were off on our bikes through Nara. Being a huge fan of mochis, I had read about a place where you could see the mochis being made freshly. It was on the main street just before the big temple site, and you want to go a see this, whether you are into this chewy sticky rice dough ball with red bean filling or not! It’s a couple of guys kneading and absolutely beating the mochi dough up, with a huge wooden hammer and great sound effects. You can see this on our vlog too, but I suggest going (if you are in Nara) to see and of course taste for yourself.
Longest Row of Sushi
Being a family of sushi lovers, we haven’t gone more than a day or two without sushi in Japan – we just can’t get enough. So, finding the world’s longest sushi desk with all the guests sitting on one long row of nearly 30 meters with running sushi (the boys’ favorite), we went in for lunch. Delicious and filling and not too expensive we were ready to explore more of the temples, shrines and the deer park in Nara.
Deer all over
And I don’t mean a park with the hard to spot deer – no, they are everywhere and semi-tame. The deer are used to the tourists treating them to deer-cookies, which you can buy at the park. We did the same, but as neither of us parents are particularly into animals our kids are not so used to them. Philip, however, wanted to feed them and pad the deer, which is no problem. I, personally, found them to be a tad too tame and too straight forward in their approach asking for cookies. Martin was taking a working break on a bench in the park, while the boys were playing around in the park, when a deer came up. It began pushing and smelling Martin, when it started to lick his pc and chewing on the screen. It turns out that the pc is deer-proof and it was quite a funny moment.
Special Nara Sights
There are so many temples and shrines to be seen in Nara, and we did see many of them. One that deserves highlighting was the 5-stories pagoda which is part of the Kofukuji Tempel, and is the landmark of Nara. Biking through the big park with wide gravel roads perfect are for bikes. We made it to a great green spot, where we took a break in the special light from the late afternoon sun. The boys could run around freely among the deer. Biking on we came to the final big and impressive tempel, Todaiji, which house Japan’s biggest Buddha bronze statue. There are so many tempels and shrines to see in Nara, so our suggestion is to chose which ones to see before you go, or you can see the ones you come by, but there will be a lot.
We biked back home to our hotel at dusk – having had a great time in Nara along with all the other tourists there.