I hadn’t planned on visiting Nara until actually arriving in Tokyo. My friends suggested I go, so during my Kyoto time, I got up at the crack of dawn (to avoid the other tourists) and hopped on a train to Nara.
Wow. If you go to Japan and you want to see the old Japan, go to Nara. Kyoto is nice, but its a big city with lots of tourists. If you make it to Nara for 6-7am, you will literally be the only one walking around some of the most impressive temples I saw during my stay.
Also, Nara is home to hundreds and hundreds of sacred deer. These guys are actually pretty tame near the temples, and you can feed them special deer cookies you can buy from the shops, but the ones who live in the woods are a little more wild.
Nara is mostly famous for its huge cast bronze Buddha statue. It was a sight to see for sure, and the level of detail and craftsmanship in it, along with the other temples, really was special.
If you get there early, I suggest you hit the Buddha first thing to avoid any tourists, but after that It was relatively quiet for the rest of my day walking around. August is the low season for tourism in Japan due to the heat and humidity, but if you dress light, you can really get a chance to explore uninhibited.
First I wandered through the small town by the train station and out toward the main area with the temples and greenery. I stopped by this little pagoda on a lake and enjoyed the early morning tranquility.
I next decided I should visit what would be the biggest tourist attraction of Nara, before it got busy. When I arrived at Todai-Ji temple, it was effectively deserted,
Todai-Ji temple is super amazing for a few reasons. Inside the temple is a giant cast bronze statue of a buddha, one of Japans largest.
The building itself is the largest wooden structure in the world. The crazy thing is that this is the rebuild, and the original building was some 2-3 times larger!
I continued my exploration and walked up some hills towards the higher temples.
Checked out this large bell, it was huge!
Nara was perhaps my favourite temple experience in Japan. Just being free to walk around and get lost, with almost no other people around (most were sitting, painting the surroundings).
It’s custom to put some of this water in your mouth, wash your hands etc when visiting a temple. These basins were everywhere.
Ventured through the forest to another part of the complex.
The morning light here was absolutely exquisite. The Japaneese have a word for the way that light filters through tree leaves, ‘Komorebi’.
I made sure to visit more gardens. I’m not a huge fan of gardening myself, but I definitely have an appreciation for it.
Tea houses. I couldn’t find the entrance to this garden so I hopped the wall to get in. Sorry.
Turns out its free to enter for foreigners anyway, so no harm done.
Perhaps my favourite thing about Japanese gardens is how they embrace moss, where most other gardens use grass or gravel.
Next up, my visit to Himeji, which will contain a castle and some more gardens! Don’t you just love gardens?!