There’s a good chance you’ll have seen Nara, and Nara Park in particular, featured somewhere on Instagram over the last few years. There are so many things to do in Nara and plenty to see too. The large park is situated in Nara, Japan. It contains over 1,000 deer; you’ll remember the photos now. The city of Nara was actually the capital for over 70 years from the year 710 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In recent times, it has become more known for the freely roaming deer. Are you planning a Day Trip to Nara Park? You’ve come to the right place.
I had a lot of questions before I visited Nara and I’m sure you will too…
- Is Nara Park closer to Osaka or Kyoto?
- What is the Nara Park entrance fee?
- How long should I spend at Nara Park?
- Why are there deer in Nara Park?
- Can you touch the deer in Nara?
- Can you feed the deer in Nara?
- Which temples should I visit in Nara?
Don’t worry, I’ll cover all of these and more. I visited Nara from Osaka in February 2020 and I loved it. I’d definitely recommend you put Nara onto your Japan itinerary.
Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784 and its situated 30km east of Osaka and 45km south of Kyoto. The city is home to the Kasuga Grand Shrine. The main deity of the shrine is Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto who is said to have ridden into Nara from Kashima on a white deer. The deer were treated as messengers of the spirits, and therefore deemed to be sacred after this. This is the reason why there are deer living in Nara Park to this day.
There are eight Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara acknowledged by UNESCO in 2008. In addition to the palace and forest, there are a mixture of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. These are all perfect to be included within a things to do in Nara Park itinerary.
- Todai-ji Temple
- Kofuku-ji Temple
- Kasuga Taisha Shrine
- Gango-ji Temple
- Yakushi-ji Temple
- Toshodai-ji Temple
- Mount Kasuga Ancient Forest
How to get to Nara
The good news is that if you have the Japan Rail Pass then you can get to Nara from Kyoto using the pass. You can use the JR Nara line from Kyoto Station. This line takes approximately 45 mins and Nara is just seven stops away from Kyoto. You won’t have anything to pay if you’re using the JR Pass. If you don’t have the JR Pass then the JR Nara line will cost you 720 yen (£4.50 / $5.90).
The other option is to take the Kinetsu-Kyoto Line from Kyoto Station to Kintetsu-Nara Station. This is slightly quicker, taking 35 minutes and this route costs around 1,160 yen (£7.20 / $9.45).
The JR Pass can also be used from Osaka Station to Nara. The journey takes 55 minutes on the JR Yamatoji Line. This is included within the JR Pass, or 810 yen (£5 / $6.60) if you don’t have the pass.
The other, quicker, option is the Kintetsu Nara Line Express train for Kintetsunara. This train leaves from Osaka-Namba Station and arrives into Shinomiya. The total cost is 570 yen (£3.50 / $4.65) and it takes roughly 35-40 minutes.
If you’re looking to go to Nara from Tokyo then your best bit is to get the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. The Shinkansen would take around 2 hours 10 minutes to Kyoto and then a further 45 minutes to Nara. This would be completely included within the JR Pass but it would take around 3 hours.
If you’re coming from Tokyo it may be a little more challenging but with the other options you should be able to organise a day trip to Nara fairly comfortably.
One question I see a lot is how much does it cost to enter Nara Park? It’s completely free! There is no entrance fee to get in to Nara.
How long should I go to Nara Park for?
Our first port of call when we arrived in Nara was to pop into the Tourist Information office. From there we received a map and discussed the best route with the helpful staff there. The staff did recommend a full day of around 6-8 hours. However if you don’t mind walking quickly you could halve this quite easily and still see most of the sights.
When I went, I covered all of the things to do in Nara Park within 4 hours very comfortably. This included a break for some noodles at lunch too. A successful Day Trip to Nara Park!
Another question I saw being asked a lot was when should I get to Nara Park? I’d recommend aiming for roughly 11am. That way you can tick off the must see places in Nara below, stop for lunch and be on your way back to Osaka or Kyoto by 2pm.
One thing to note is I walked 26,000 steps on the day I visited. Be ready to walk!
Feeding the Deer at Nara
You’re able to feed the deer in Nara, but there’s a technique to it. Special crackers can be bought around Nara Park for around 150 yen (£1 / $1.20). In order to feed the deer, you can approach a deer and bow your head. Sensing food the deer will bow their head back to you. If you hold a cracker above their head they will also bow. I’m not quite sure how they learnt this but they definitely know that there’s food at the end of it so they’re more than happy to bow for you!
You can touch the deer in Nara so you’re free to pet them after feeding them.
There are signs up saying that the deer do occasionally attack people and warning you to be careful but, fortunately, I didn’t see anything like that.
Must See Places in Nara Park
At the top of most must see lists you’ll see the Todai-ji Temple. Opened in 752, this grand temple is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites within Nara Park. You can enter the building and you’ll find the largest Great Buddha bronze statue in the world. Until 1998 this was also the worlds largest wooden building
You should also make time to check out Kofuku-ji Temple within Nara. This Buddhist temple was originally built in 672 but has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. It’s even moved from the original location. This temple complex is made up of many buildings and the five-story pagoda is particularly impressive.
The Kasuga Taisha Shrine, or Kasuga Grand Shrine, is another building not to miss when visiting Nara Park. If you go inside there is a small entrance fee you should be aware of. This is a little walk away but it is very impressive with lanterns all around the Shrine. I didn’t actually go through but there’s also the Kasuga Primeval Forest nearby that does look interesting.
If you’ve not realised by now there are so many temples here it is easy to get ‘all templed out’. If you want to see more Temples then you have another three that I recommend. The three temples in Nara in addition to the above I’d go to are the Gango-ji Temple, Yakushi-ji Temple and the Toshodai-ji Temple. Yakushi-ji in particular is such a cool temple. The west pagoda Saitō is definitely one to be putting on Instagram!
There is a good mix of food options within Nara too including quick, cheap food right through to higher end restaurants nearby.
Would I recommend a Day Trip to Nara Park? Yes
I absolutely loved my visit to Nara and I’d definitely recommend visiting if you have half a day spare within your trip to Japan. Let me know below what other tips you have for a Day Trip to Nara Park.
Visited in February 2020