January 14, 2016

Travel Japan 2015: Nara Prefecture

Humblebrag Moment!!!

This is my third time travelling to Japan, and I feel so blessed to be able to experience this opportunity. Japan has always been my favorite country for vacations, as I am forever fascinated by its culture, food, lifestyle, and overall first-world atmosphere.

Some of the places in this trip are places that I've already been to before, and I'll be putting the links of my previous blog entries at the end of this post. Nevertheless, there are still a few places which I've visited for the first time. Case in point, Nara.

My husband in front of a poster of Nara's mascot 
by the Kintetsu-Nara train station.

Where to Stay

Our trip to Nara was only a half-day trip, so we did not book accommodations within the city. In fact, we took a train from our point of origin, which was Osaka.

My technique in finding a place to stay is a rather unusual one; I start my search in Google Maps. What I did was to look for a bed () icon within the area I wanted to stay (in this case, near a shopping district). With this technique:
  • I can have an idea on the logistics of the area; what is the nearest train station, convenience store, etc
  • I can check if the hostel has a website that supports international languages
  • I can view customer reviews about the hostel

We chose a ryokan-style hostel for this year's trip: Osaka Hana Hostel.

Osaka Hana Hostel is a modest backpacker/ three-star accommodation, with rooms ranging from communal dormitory-type rooms to private studio-type rooms. It also has options to choose from Japanese-style rooms (i.e. tatami bedding) or Western-style rooms (i.e. twin beds or bunk beds).

Rates, amenities and booking details can be viewed in their website, but for your consideration, here are the things I liked about staying in Osaka Hana Hostel:
  • Prompt email reply to inquiries
  • Reservation can be done as early as three months before the check-in date
  • No deposit fee required
  • Credit Card payment is accepted
  • Hostel staff are very fluent in English 
  • Clean bathroom with modern plumbing facilities
  • Location of hostel is less than 5 minutes from shopping district (Shinsaibashi)

How to Get There

When travelling from city to city, the most direct route is usually from the city's central station. In this case, Osaka-Namba Station. Google Maps and Hyperdia are the most useful sites when searching for train routes and schedules.

We were quite pressed for time that day, so we can only afford to visit Nara's most popular attraction, which is its Deer Park. To get to the Deer Park from Osaka Station, these are the suggested routes:

Screen capture from Hyperdia search.

Suggested route from Google Maps

What to Do

Nara Deer Park is only a small portion of the wide expanse that is Nara Park. From Kintetsu-Nara station, a short (but challenging uphill) walk will lead you to one the many park entrances.

You can already see deer roaming around the path from the station to the park entrance.
There is no entrance fee or operating hours within the park as it is an open area. You can see, however, a lot of vendors selling deer crackers for 150 JPY.

I think, we went there on a holiday, thus the crowd.
As you near the main park area, you can see more and more deer hanging around. The deer are very docile and chill, and the antlers of the stags are already cut off.

Depending on the time of day, the deer are either energetic or lethargic.
These ones are so chill, they don't even bother picking up the crackers from the floor.
To the left of the park (northwards?) is a pathway to the Todaiji Temple, the main temple in Nara. It is a very old, ancient temple constructed in the year 752.

Travel Tip: There are a lot of historical buildings and artifacts in Nara, thus there is a risk that a particular place you'd like to visit is closed to the public because of restoration. Best research in advance to avoid disappointment.

Path to Todaiji Temple.

Todaiji Temple grounds, view to the back of Nara Park.

Todaiji Temple grounds, facing Nara Park.
That big building is the gateway to the temple grounds.

There are a lot of smaller temples and gardens situated around the park. The best times to visit are during the springtime (to see the cherry blossom trees in full bloom) and during the autumn (to see the leaves change color).

More pictures can be found in my photoblog and Flickr page.

Related Links:

1 comment:

  1. Wow wonderful post and images. I visisted here in April and I too loved it. Just wished I had more time in Nara. Please read my travel experience and some amazing sakura pictures here