1. Feed the deer a senbei cracker at Nara Park. Considered messengers of gods in the Shinto religion, the friendly deer is a long-standing symbol of Nara. Be careful though, as once you feed one, they’ll all flock to you.

2. Visit the Todaiji Great Buddha Hall. One of the eight properties included in the historic monuments of Nara’s world heritage site, the original Todaiji Daibutsu was built by Emperor Shomu and completed in 752. The current building was finished in 1709. 

3. Stop by the Nara National Museum to witness the countless national treasures on display. It has a permanent collection of Buddhist sculptures, scrolls and artifacts, as well as temporary exhibits.

4. Witness the five-story pagoda of Kofukuji. Originally founded in 669, it’s one of Japan’s oldest Buddhist temples.

5. Visit the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, another world heritage site. Linked to the Fujiwara clan, it’s known for its lanterns. There are 2,000 lanterns in Nara Park leading up to the shrine and another 1,000 hanging at the shrine itself, many of which have deer motifs carved into them.

6. Experience ancient Nara at the Heijo Palace, a UNESCO world heritage site that served as the emperor’s residence and government offices during the Nara period.

Food and Drink

7. Eat kuzumochi, a clear jelly made from kuzu root starch, served with molasses and soybean flour. If you’re visiting during spring, get some to munch on under the cherry blossoms in Yoshino.

8. Eat some kakinoha (persimmon leaf) sushi and miwa somen at the Izasa Yume-Kawa Plaza branch, which has incredible views of Todaiji from its  second floor seating area.

9. For a local souvenir from Shirozakeya, get some Narazuke, pickles made with sake lees. 

10. Explore seasonal, local seafood and produce at the Nara Central Market.

11. Pay a visit to watch a traditional matcha whisk craftsperson working. 

12. Enjoy fine dining in a world heritage site surrounded by Nara Park’s greenery at the French restaurant, La Terrasse. 

13. Go on a craft beer tour to local breweries and bars for the freshest beer.

14. Stop by Lamp Bar, which ranked 23rd in Asia’s 50 Best Bars this year. 

15. Watch the YouTube-famous fastest mochi makers in Japan pound mochi.

16. Try sake in the Miwa area, where sake brewing is said to have originated, at Imanishi Sake Brewery.

17. Partake in a traditional tea ceremony lesson at Taiseian, a teahouse that dates back to 1812 and has ties to Horyuji Temple.

Art and Culture

18. Learn the history of sumo in the city said to be the birthplace of the sport 2,000 years ago at Katsuragi City Sumo Museum Kehayaza.

19. Enter the world of Japanese period dramas by visiting the traditional Edo-era town of Imaicho.

20. Hike, camp and barbecue. Then, end the day soaking in a hot spring at Dorogawa Onsen.

21. Visit the former merchant town Naramachi for a stroll and surround yourself with Edo-period buildings. Stop by the many restaurants, casual bars and museums there while you’re at it.

22. If you do end up visiting Naramachi, stop by the Mechanical Toys and Puppet Museum to look at antique karakuri crafts.

23. Check out the Neiraku Museum of Art to see over 2,000 artifacts that survived the air raids of 1945, as well as the Isuien Garden designed in the Meiji era. 

Shrines and Temples

24. Visit Yakushiji, another world heritage site that holds the remains of the famous Buddhist monk Genjo Sanzo from the Saiyuki legend.

25. Be blown away by the 48 world heritage monuments at Horyuji.

26. Visit Hokiji, another world heritage site and one of the seven great temples founded by Prince Shotoku.

27. Be part of Darumaji’s Prince Shotoku legends.

28. Pay respects to the protectors of the sacred mountain at Kinpusenji.

29. Explore the national treasure site Gangoji, often considered the first authentic temple in Japan.

30. Soothe your mental and spiritual health at Yakushiji, which was established by Emperor Tenmu in the hope of curing his consort (who later became Empress Jito) from sickness.

31. Take a trip to the outskirts of Nara to Toshodaiji, a place originally built for training Buddhist monks and still considered today as Japan’s head temple for Ritsushu Buddhist teachings.

32. Go back to the beginnings of Shintoism at Omiwa Shrine, which is considered one of the oldest shrines and predates the custom of having a main hall. Guests are encouraged to worship the nearby Mount Miwa instead, closely associated with Okuninushi, the guardian deity of human life.

33. Visit Muroji Temple, the “Koyasan for women,” a historically egalitarian temple at the base of Mount Muro that permitted female worshippers to train as early as the Kamakura period.

Nature and Scenery

34. Experience some of Japan’s oldest trails on the UNESCO Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.

35. Meander through Manyo Botanical Garden, located in the precincts of Kasuga Taisha Shrine and thoroughly referenced in Manyo-shu, the oldest anthology of tanka poems.

36. Witness the expansive Kannabinosato Rice Terraces of Asuka, which was also listed as one of the 100 best rice terraces in Japan.

37. Visit Japan’s most famous cherry blossom spot, Yoshino Mountain, whose name you might recognize from the Somei Yoshino cherry tree.

38. Hike through the untouched grounds of Mount Kasuga Primeval Forest to take in the lush ecosystem full of over 175 types of flora and fauna.

39. See the stunning cosmos in the autumn at the Fujiwara Palace Ruins of Kashihara city.

40. Hike through the trails of Mitarai Valley to see the dramatic waterfalls or even jump into the pristine waters.

41. Explore Ryuchin Valley, which also houses the massive Murou Dam and the sacred Ryuchin Shrine.

42. Experience some real-life Sound of Music magic at Soni Highland, a perfect spot for hiking and relaxation during the autumn.

43. Test your courage on one of Japan’s longest suspension bridges, the Tanize Suspension Bridge, which hangs over the Totsukawa River.

44. Be mesmerized by one of Kansai’s largest caves, Menfudo Limestone Cave, full of stalactites that hang from a domed ceiling.

45. Take a road trip to Mount Tamaki, which is considered one of the most sacred points of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage.


46. Stay at the old folk house-turned-hotel Sasayuri Ann, where you can enjoy the stunning view of rice terraces.

47. Take a hot spring bath at Amanogawa Onsen while listening to the sounds of waterfalls and nature.

48. Shop ‘til you drop at Higashimuki (east-facing) shopping street. The street gets its name from how all the stores were built facing Kofukuji.

49. Make your own uchiwa fan at Ikeda Gankodo, a store with over 170 years of history. 

50. See if there are any concerts playing at the massive Nara Centennial Hall.

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