Less than an hour from Kyoto, directly connected by local trains every half hour (but also by the JR line on which you can take advantage of the Japan Rail Pass), Nara is a nice excursion to do comfortably in the day.
Japan's first stable capital ,? a very nice and pleasant town, it hosts eight UNESCO sites, the first of which? the Nara-Koen, an immense park where about 1200 sacred deer roam,
considered messengers of the gods before the advent of Buddhism and today a national heritage. From various street vendors you can buy deer biscuits (shika-senbei) and try to make friends with them, even if they approach spontaneously anyway.
From the arrival station you can easily reach on foot all the most important sites. important,
first along a beautiful street full of shops and places to eat, then plunging into the tranquility? of the park, which despite being very crowded (we went on Sunday) is extremely pleasant to go through for its vastness? and why? the locals ? always very discreet and silent even when moving in groups.
The almost obligatory path (and well explained on the maps along the road) passes next to the beautiful complex of the Neiraku Art Museum (which we skipped over by limiting ourselves to admire it from the outside) and leads in front of a majestic portal manned by two imposing guardians with a grim expression (and in any case these two wooden statues are considered among the most beautiful in Japan).
The main attraction of the park for? (besides the cute deer)? the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) kept in the Todai-ji temple complex.
The entrance to the temple? free except for the Daibutsu-den where you pay 800 yen. This, having been reconstructed and while currently reproducing only two thirds the size of the original,? the largest wooden building The world's largest Buddha statue? 16 meters high and made of bronze and gold.
Very complicated to photograph it and above all to render the greatness.
Behind it is a column with a narrow? Gallery? excavated at the base. Its dimensions are exactly those of a nostril of the Great Buddha.
L? a line forms in front of us to try to pass through it: even crying babies are urged to try and finally pushed in between smiles and pats of encouragement.
? popular belief in fact that those who manage to slip into it (and also to exit the other side) have the guarantee of reaching enlightenment. Lonely Planet recommends trying stretching your arms above your head and having a trusted collaborator push or pull. Needless to say, you witness unlikely scenes and the show? guaranteed!
A little more? forward, climbing a staircase decorated with stone lanterns on both sides, you come to two more temples? ancient (Nigatsu-do and Sangatsu-do) which, being on a hill, offer a beautiful panoramic view of Nara.
The final destination of the whole trek, after having crossed a beautiful forest, always crowded with deer,? the Shinto shrine Kasuga Taisha, surrounded both internally and externally along the paths to reach it, by hundreds and hundreds of bronze and stone lanterns (apparently there are about 3000), which are all lit on the occasion of the Mantoro, the lantern festival which takes place twice a year.
The path back to the station? equally enjoyable and mostly? shaded.
-There are public toilets (well indicated) even inside the park and in the woods to get to the sanctuary.
- Inside the station? there is a nice well-stocked supermarket where you can buy supplies instead of the usual combini (convenience store), the small supermarkets (Lawson, Family Mart and 7Eleven) open 24 hours ubiquitous.