My Visit to Nara, Japan

Japan had always intrigued me ever since I was a child. As a child I used to believe Japan was the edge of the world, the weather there was extreme because of the winds from outside Earth blowing inland and monsters frequently showing up on the coast every now and then.

But as I grew up, I realized Japan was one of the strongest nations in the world, to have not only recovered after the destruction of the Second World War but also become one of the leading nations of the world in a very short period of time.

I found Japan to be a country with a rich history and a commendable present. Although I didn’t get much time to discover the place in detail, as I was on an official trip to Japan, my company decided to give me a spare day as a bonus stay so I could see the country and have a roll. As soon as I discovered I had forty-eight hours to look around the place, I quickly opened my laptop and started searching for places to visit in Japan.

The search results were loaded with recommended places, with lots of tourists sharing their views about the amazing country. I was having serious difficulty in selecting the destination to start with. But since I came from a metropolitan myself, I wasn’t much interested in visiting another metro. I wanted a quieter place, that was rich in Japanese history and culture, and voila I found my spot, Nara.

 

Nara is one of the most beautiful cities in Japan. Peaceful, full of cultural heritage and temples, all add to the scenic beauty of Nara. The city is not directly accessible via air, so I took the train to Nara, as I also wanted to enjoy the journey.

The journey was simply amazing; the greenery on the way was breathtaking. The flora was rich and colorful; the trees were of all shades ranging from Green to Orange to Magenta. There wasn’t a moment on the way when I stopped clicking images of the beautiful landscape that surrounded me.

My first stop was the famous Tōdai-ji temple. It is one of the seven famous temples in the city. Tōdai-ji was a beautiful sight to watch, especially because of the history associated with it. Tōdai-ji houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue called “The Great Buddha.” It was a sight to watch, the towering monument of the great man, all made from Bronze. And not only this, the huge central temple building is made entirely of wood.

The area around the temple which is also considered a part of the temple is huge, with sporadic buildings spread over a large area, filled in with lush gardens in between. The Tōdai-ji has a very unique history as it was built to appease the troubled spirit of prince Motoi, but later on, gained importance due to various reasons that could be read on the historical scriptures and murals constructed all along the temple.

I spent my time roaming about the precincts, the lakes, and gardens of the temple. They had a very special effect upon me, and I felt myself eluding into the mystical environment of the temple. It was so soothing that for a few minutes I kept my camera aside, and started meditating myself. And I felt peace like I had never before all my life; it was like a spiritual therapy, that place had something which made me feel relieved.

Next up was the climb for the belfry, it is the temple bell that is situated atop a hill, which has been made accessible for the tourists by making stairs. One thing that truly inspired me was the level of up-keep the authorities had managed. Repairs had been made to certain spots, but due to the apt actions of the authorities, the temple was in good shape.

Another interesting fact about the place was the presence of Deer. In Shinto religion, the deer are considered to be messengers of God and hence are left to roam freely around the national parks. It’s a wonderful sight to watch, deer running around the place with no fear of being hurt or hunted. The deer really enjoy freedom in the area and often get interested in snacks you have taken for yourselves. I had to stop a deer many times who was trying to chew off my sandwich in my bag.

Once I had absorbed the place entirely, I decided to return. I was shocked to see how much time I had spent at the Tōdai-ji and I had to change my plan of visiting other temples on that trip. But still, I had taken a lot in from the visit, had enjoyed myself and made full use of the free-day I had got. But it was time to return now. My interest in Japan was only increased after this brief peek into the wonderful country of Japan.

My 7 Day Visit to Japan

Ah Japan, this is the land where everything works. Japan is an intriguing destination, full of sumptuous foods, mesmerizing landscapes, and incredible sights to behold.

Japanese food can be described as clean and minimalist, but it is never simple, this fact is what probably sums up Japan as a whole. I refer to Japan as a place that both lives up to, and out does, any expectation you have upon arrival, mine wasn’t an exception.

Osaka Japan Skyline.

I had heard about all these amazing before I even dreamt of visiting but nothing in the world prepared me for the incredible experience that I had on my 7-day trip to Japan.

The first step I took in planning my Japan vacation was to decide on when to go. As with most places, there is a “best” time to go to Japan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go whenever the mood strikes you as Japan is a year-round travel destination.

I discovered that late spring (March to May) and late autumn (September to November) are generally the best times to visit Japan because during these months, there is very little rainfall and there are many sunny days, but the temperatures are mild, and you can guess that I went just then.

The first thing that caught my fancy upon my arrival in Japan is that tipping is not customary, Yeah right! For someone like me coming from the states, I had earlier been told but didn’t believe till I tried tipping a waiter at the airport restaurant and him nicely- who refuses a tip in this part of the world if not Japanese.

Enough of the beautiful scene that welcomed me at the airport and the food I first had, let me give you a rundown of how my 7 days looked like, don’t forget that I had carefully mapped out my trip because I didn’t want to leave without seeing the important places and I also did not want to spend too due to my lack of planning. :

My First day in Tokyo was less stressful, and I stayed at the Intercontinental The Strings Tokyo Hotel which I must confess that it was a large hotel with nice rooms. I stayed there because it was very close to shopping centers, and the transportation into the next stop was very easy from here too. I was at the Tsukiji Fish Market and also ate a lot of Sushi, Ramen, and Gyoza. Food has never been so delicious.

I took the bullet train at Shinagawa Station on the second day to Hakone-I had heard a lot about their Onsens, and it was nothing short of my expectations, you need to see the beautiful view of Mount Fuji that took my breath away.

Hakone is the place to go if you want to experience a traditional onsen (hot springs). The onsens are separated by gender and are a “no bathing suit” style traditional bath. You can also take the cable car to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. You can also stay at the Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa which is within walking distance of the cable car that takes you toward Mt. Fuji. The hotel has very nice, classy rooms, with great views.

If you want to explore a traditional Japanese ryokan experience with nice accommodations and good food, then you should try the Hakone Mount View. They have a rare volcanic hot spring called Nigori-yu – a fun and unique experience, especially for couples.

I transfer to Kyoto on the fourth day. I saw the temples of Kyoto, including the Fushimi Inari Shrine and Golden Temple. I also visited the Nishiki Market and saw the geishas walking around the city center, and I ended the day with a traditional kaiseki dinner.

If you’re happy to keep hanging out in Kyoto, you can spend the full day. Another option is to take a midday JR train to Nara Park to feed the roaming deer, see the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue, and one of the tallest pagodas in Japan.

In the evening, whether you’re in Kyoto still or in Nara, take the JR train onward to Osaka.

In Osaka, I made sure that I visited Dotonbori Street to try all the Japanese specialties, like okonomiyaki and takoyaki. I was also at the Osaka Castle and Park and checked out the Instant Ramen Museum. I ended the day with a visit to the food-focused Kuromon Ichiba Market.

One of my favorite hotels in the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel. It is conveniently located for transportation, so you can easily get around to the top sights in Osaka and beyond. It’s got an insane view and comfortable rooms.

You may have to fly or take the train back to Tokyo on your 7th day in order to fly back home, but if you have one more day to spend, we recommend taking the 30-minute train ride to Kobe to try the famous Kobe beef, then stop off in Kobe’s Nada district for a tasting at a few sake breweries.

My journey to Japan will linger in my memories in years to come because I had fun, that is an understatement- I felt on top of the world, I am sure that I would have to plan another trip very soon.