A First-Timer’s Sightseeing Guide To Nara Park

Wondering where else to go in Japan? Nara Park, a sprawling forested expanse nestled at the base of Mt. Wakakusa, is definitely among the country’s must-see destinations.

Found in the old capital city of Nara, Japan, the park is not as famous as other tourist spots in Tokyo and Kyoto. It’s certainly worth a look, especially for those who want to get to know Japan beneath the surface. From free-roaming wildlife to ancient sacred spaces to the untouched beauty of natural vistas, there’s a wide range of attractions in Nara Park to suit every kind of traveler. 

First-time visitors may feel compelled to hit every corner of the 660-hectare park upon getting there, but there are a couple of Nara Park attractions that should not be missed.



Close Encounters With Nara’s Deer

M S via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

More than 1,200 deer roam the grounds of Nara Park, enough that plenty of locals and tourists even call the grounds as Nara Deer Park.

First-time visitors often worry over not seeing wildlife on their trip. Trust us, while deer may be elusive in other parts of the world, they are everywhere in Nara Park: lounging on the grass, trotting down the winding pathway, and even following travelers around the park.

In the Shinto religion, deer are considered messengers to gods. These majestic creatures are especially important to Nara, where a god known as Takemikazuchi appeared atop Mt. Wakakusa riding a white deer, according to legend. Deer was considered to be so holy that killing one was punishable by death in the city until the 1600s.



Feeding the Deer

Ajay Suresh via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Despite the flock of visitors streaming to the park, the animals are unbothered and relaxed about the human presence and snapping cameras. A number of them have even learned to approach and bow to tourists in hopes of getting food. Give each one a deer cracker or two, which are available for sale at the park. 

For animal lovers and children, encountering and feeding the Nara Park deer are some of the best things to do in Japan!

Of course, while the deer at the park are surprisingly tame, it’s important to be careful as a few can be aggressive in their pursuit of food. If this happens, stay calm and walk away without panicking. It’s also essential to stick to the deer crackers when feeding them, since these are specially made to be nutritious for the deer.



The Temples and Shrines Near Nara Park

Grace Shih via Pixabay

Next to the deer, Todaiji Temple is perhaps the most famous Nara Park attraction. Known as one of the most prestigious temples in the city, the 1,200-year-old temple is home to the world’s biggest bronze statue of Buddha.

Kofukuji Temple is also a good stop, one of the first temples built in Nara. Its ancient five-story pagoda is an awe-inspiring sight, while Kofukuji’s National Treasure Museum showcases many precious relics and ancient Buddhist artworks. 

Follow the trails to one of the most sacred sites in Japan, especially for Shinto devotees: Kasuga Taisha Shrine, home to four gods. It’s a stunning stroll with thousands of stone lanterns lining the pathway to the shrine. Tourists who stop by the temple in May are treated to blooming wisteria flowers surrounding the holy area.



Other Nearby Attractions

TravelingOtter via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you have more time to explore other attractions around Nara Park, head to Isuien Garden. The tranquil garden is the most beautiful garden in the city with a few tea houses, which now offer food and drinks to visitors. 

Wander the hiking trails of Mt. Kasuga Primeval Forest to discover Nara’s natural beauty. It is protected as a sacred area with 175 various species of wild animals, birds, insects, and trees.



Book A Tour Of Nara Park 

A day trip to Nara Park is one of the best things to do in Japan and for a first-timer, opting in on a guided tour may be the best choice. With a tour instead of going DIY, you can take advantage of convenient transportation and inclusive entrance fees.

Book KKday’s Day Tour from Osaka: Arashiyama and Nara Park, an ideal package for travelers based in Osaka embarking on a journey to two of Japan’s top destinations. 



*Featured image sebcaldera via Pixabay