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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in Japan

Wild deer, colourful temples and the world’s biggest bronze Buddha: Nara Park, Kyoto

Nara was the imperial capital before Kyoto, built more than 1,300 years ago…

By Hiroko Wakayama
Kyoto Tour Guide

For guests wanting to combine nature with culture, we offer a half-day excursion to Nara Park from Kyoto that’s very popular with families.

Located around a 50-minute drive from the centre of Kyoto, the park is famous for its wild deer, which live in the surrounding mountains and come down to the park every morning. Guests can feed them, and they aren’t shy – if you have a cracker in your hand, you’ll get 20 deer running towards you!

There are lots of trees lining the park, and it’s also home to several cultural sites; Nara was the imperial capital before Kyoto, built more than 1,300 years ago.

The most famous of them is the Tōdai-ji Temple – a huge wooden temple built in the eighth century that’s one of the biggest wooden structures in the world (and it used to even bigger). It’s constructed entirely without nails, and at the entrance is a huge gilt bronze Buddha that’s the largest of its kind on the planet – it’s almost as tall as the statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro! Guests are always awe-struck by its size. We often see monks at the temple, and at the back of the Great Buddha Hall there’s a hole in one of the pillars that’s said to be the same size as the statue’s nostril; those who can fit through the hole are said to be granted good luck.

We also visit the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, where you walk through a dark passageway filled with lanterns illuminating the way. We often see miko shrine maidens (young priestesses) here, wearing wisteria flowers in their hair, the symbolic flower of the shrine.

Guests get time to explore the surrounding streets of Nara too; walking along the old streets to the south of the station is a wonderful way to enjoy the city, and you can stop by the historic shops and houses for a glimpse into local life.

I love the combination of culture and history here; I once saw a wild boar right in front of the Great Buddha ticket office. Isn’t it amazing that a town can live in harmony with wild deer? Meeting the deer brings a smile to everyone’s face, and seeing the giant gold Buddha never fails to impress either!

Categories

  • History
  • Trips to take
  • Wildlife

Available in these itineraries…

Alfred & Hiroko Wakayama

Hiroko has been a tour guide in Kyoto for seven years. She grew up in Tokyo before moving to Osaka, where she worked as an editor of a medical journal. She later decided to become a tour guide and share her love of travel with visitors from all over the world.  She has travelled in Europe as well as across Japan – but with more than 1,000 years of history, her favourite city is still Kyoto.

Alfred&

Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Malcolm, who's travelled extensively in Japan. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the tea devotee who'll introduce you to the ceremony surrounding Japan's national drink, the noodle guru who'll teach you how to make the perfect bowl of soba and the ryokan owner who'll tutor you in the relaxing art of the onsen.

Freephone an expert 01306 744 656