A day exploring Nara
Nara, Japan When I arrived in Japan I already had plans to visit Kyoto the next day as it was my dream city and I couldn't wait. The next day at the train station I asked for a ticket to 'Inari Station' because I wanted to go to Fushimi Inari Shrine first, but I was given a Nara ticket. As I continued on the journey I realized I wasn't going to Kyoto but going to Nara and the stop was approaching shortly. Nara was on my list of places to visit but for another day, but since I was already there - and no point in going all the way to Kyoto - and it was a splendid day, I enjoyed a day visiting Nara.
Walking from Nara train station to Nara Park is a short walk, and I felt so light on my feet as it was a stunning day. I stopped by a curry house and had a meal of vegetable curry and rice at CoCo Ichibanya before continuing on to Nara Park. If you've seen the photos of those cute deers in Japan, this is where you will find them. They are absolutely adorable and mischievous and I spent about two hours walking around feeding, petting and photographing them.
Everyone was filled with joy watching these two little girls feeding a couple deers pieces of lettuce, and after the deers would take the vegetable pieces the girls would jump around and squeal with joy. Laughter and smiles are just highly contagious and it was a warm feeling seeing how happy they were.
Nara was an endless source of inspiration, and I couldn't feel more inspired especially due to the fact that I had my new camera with me. I really took the time to work on my photography skills and learning ways to capture images in different perspectives. At times I was overwhelmed by everything I wanted to photograph and there was so much to take pictures of such as the architecture, shrines, nature and modern buildings in the city.
Kōfuku-ji Temple 興福寺
Kōfuku-ji Temple was the first temple I visited while at Nara and where I saw my first deer. It features the Eastern Golden Hall, Northern and Southern Octagonal Halls, and the main building which is the Central Golden Hall. There's an impressive five story pagoda.Most of the area is free to view, but to see the National Treasure Museum and Eastern Golden Hall requires a small fee.
National Treasure Museum: 600 Yen / Eastern Golden Hall: 300 Yen / Both: 800 Yen
Tōdai-ji Temple "Great Eastern Temple" 東大寺
When I first saw Tōdai-ji Temple I was left speechless. It was a monumental temple of beautiful design. When I got over the vast size of the Tōdai-ji and finally went inside, there were astonishing Buddha statues situated throughout Tōdai-ji Temple. P.S You will find plenty of souvenir shops when you reach the exit, and I went a little crazy with buying gifts and trinkets.
Entrance Fee: 500 Yen
Nigatsu-dō Hall 二月堂
I'm a lover of beautiful views from high places and I know Japan is known for it's impressive views. I was given exactly that as I ascended upon the balcony of Nigatsu-dō Hall - part of Tōdai-ji Temple. I had a calming moment of peace as I looked out at the tree tops and roofs of the temples and halls. I guess you can say I had a very cliché feeling of being grateful for life, being in Japan, and being thankful for how beautiful the day was.
Getting Around Nara
Most of the time I spent exploring Japan was on foot, and while at Kyoto, believe it or not, I rented a bike for the whole day! Biking is quite a popular way to explore the cities of Japan, and you'll appreciate the cool breeze and you get around quicker. At Kyoto you can buy a day pass for the bus, and it will take you to a number of areas within the bus range.
For the Kyoto bus day pass I paid 500 Yen, and for the bike rental I paid 800 Yen.
There are train passes (day or more) offered to use to explore Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, and the surrounding areas. While I didn't purchase one of these, it would be something to look into if you are interested in that and it would be very useful.
Don't forget Nara
All the beauty, nature, history and deers that Nara has to offer, it tends to be often overshadowed by the more popular tourist destinations such as Kyoto, Kobe or Tokyo. The good thing about Nara is that you can easily see it in a day. It's very much worth the time to visit Nara if you decide to fit in into your schedule if you plan on visiting Japan; and instead of spending a full day at Nara like I did, even half a day is enough to see a few key points and enjoy the company of deers.