Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan and is with eight Unesco World Heritage sites one of the most rewarding destinations in all of Japan. With its close proximity to Kyoto, half an hour with express trains, Nara is often visited as a side trip. Nara's compact size makes it possible to visit most worthwhile areas in one day.
Some of the most visited sightseeing spots in Nara.
The Todaiji temple (in English meaning "great eastern temple") was first constructed in year 752, and became the head Buddhist temple of all of Japan. It grew so powerful that the emperor decided to move the capital from Nara to Nagaoka-kyo to reduce its political influence.
Todaiji's main hall (Daibutsuden), although only two thirds of its original size is said to be the world's largest wooden building. Inside the massive building is where the Daibutsu, one of Japan's largest bronze Buddha statues is seated. The impressive statue is 15 meters tall and rivals Ginkakuji and Fushimi Inari Taisha as the most iconic historical attractions of Japan.
Around 30 minute walking from the Kintetsu Nara Station, or 45 from the JR Nara Station. Or by bus from either stations, getting of at Todaiji Daibutsuden stop and walk 5 minutes to Todaiji's main building.
Established in 1880, this large park located in central Nara is surrounded by many of Nara's most visited attractions, such as Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji and Nara National Museum. and is the home of over 1200 free roaming Japanese deer.
But the main attraction of the park is the over 1200 Japanese deer that freely roams the park. According to local folklore the deer was considered to be divine and a messenger of the gods. The deer are tame and will often approach visitors hoping to be fed deer-crackers(shika senbei) which are sold throughout the park.
Five minute walk from the Kintetsu Nara Station or about 20 minutes from the JR Nara Station.
Known as the oldest Buddhist temple in whole of Japan, the Horyuji temple was founded in year 607. Its main hall, five story pagoda and central gate are some of the world's oldest surviving wooden structures. There is also a recently constructed hall called Daihozoin, Great Treasure Hall, where the temple's historical Buddhist art collection is exhibited. It's also on Horyuji's temple grounds where the Yumedono(Hall of Dreams) is standing, a hall which houses the famous Yumedono kannon. A 7th century wooden sculpture that had been purposely hidden away from human eyes for over 1000 years. It's now a days opened up a few days every year to let visitors appreciate its beauty.
From JR Nara Station ride the Yamatoji Line train until Horyuji Station, then either 20 minutes by foot or a 5 minute bus ride to the temple entrance.
Isuien garden is the only Japanese walking garden in Nara. Its name Isuien is said to stand for "garden founded on water" from the way the garden is watered from the nearby Yoshikigawa river. The gardens pond also represents the shape of the Japanese kanji character for water. Isuien garden is divided into two parts that originally was two separate gardens. The Front Garden which is the oldest of the two, and the newer and larger Rear Garden. The admission ticket also let you enter the Neiraku art museum belonging to the park. Here you can enjoy over 2000 items on display, all from bronze figures to ancient pottery from China and Korea.
15 minutes walk from the Kintetsu Nara Station. Or by bus from the JR Nara Station, stopping at the Oshiagecho stop.