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Nara Kouen, or literally translated as Nara Park in English is one of the most iconic public park in Nara City. Stretching over 600 hectares, the verdant park is famously known for its scenic landscape and adorable sika deers. The park also boast numerous Nara's historical ancient temples. Nara Park has been around for centuries, with its initial establishment in 1880 and until today it stays to be the most popular hangout attraction for Japanese families and tourists alike.
6 Fun Attractions to Find in Nara Park
The first thing you'll notice right away are herds of Japanese spotted deers or Sika deers freely roaming around the park. The deers are quite accustomed to humans and will approach them for some delicious treats. They are clever enough to learn some cool tricks, like bowing back when you bow to them.There are several kiosks selling crackers that you can buy to feed the deers. As tame as they might look, you are not allowed to tease them though. They might get annoyed and attack you. According to Shintoism Sika deers are sacred animals that carry messages of Gods. Today, the government listed Sika deers as national treasure and hunting them down is illegal. In total there are 1200 sika deers inhabit the park.
The ancient temple Todaiji or “The Great Eastern Temple” is one of The Seven Great Temples in Nara (Nanto Shichi Daiji) and Nara's most famous landmark . It has been featured in many Japanese movies and TV Shows. The temple was also featured in one of John Wayne's movie “The Barbarian and the Geisha” in 1950. This grand temple house some Japan's national treasures, such as the Nandaimon Gate and a colossal Buddha statue called Daibutsu.
Take a relaxing stroll along the Isuien Garden in Nara Park. The manicured formal garden is dotted with numerous tea houses or chaya and traditional Japanese villas. There's a large lake dividing the garden, and instead of a bridge you can step on the stepping stones to get across. Isuien Garden is one of Japanese gardens that you can enjoy its beauty all year round, but come during Fall season to get the most spectacular nature view.
Painted in burning vermillion color, Kasuga Taisha is surely easy to spot. Located on the Eastern side of Nara Park, the Shinto shrine was built as a tutelary shrine for Fujiwara Clan, a very powerful and influential clan from Nara Period. Visitors are allowed to enter Kasuga Taisha's offering hall for free and pay just small amount of money to explore other parts of the shrine, such as inner area, the renowned Wakamiya Shrine, and scenic Kasuga Taisha Shinen Manyo Botanical Garden. Kasuga Taisha Shrine's yard is exceptionally beautiful in May when the wisteria flowers are in full bloom.
Another temple made by Fujiwara Clan in Nara Park Complex is Kofukuji. There are 150 buildings in the temple complex and the most noticable one is a five-story pagoda dubbed as the second tallest pagoda in Japan. There are two areas in Kofuku-ji that are waiting to be explored. The first one is National Treasure Museum that display various interesting Buddhist art collections and statues. The second one is The Eastern Golden Hall boasting plethora of ancient Buddhist arts, such as the large wooden Buddha Statue called Yakushi Buddha.
Nara National Museum is probably the only European-style building that can be found in Nara Park complex. The museum was established by Japanese government in 1889 and you can find large collection of Buddha statues and paintings. Visitors also can admire numerous ancient scrolls and observe ceremonial objects in Buddhism collected from all over Japan.
How to Get Tickets?
The Nara Park itself doesn't require you to purchase an entrance ticket. However you do have to pay admission fees to enter some gardens and ancient temples in the area. You will also have to buy crackers if you want to feed the Sika deers.
How To Get Around?
All attractions in Nara Park are within walking distance. There's also rickshaw (jinrikisha) services you can use to reach popular attractions near Nara Park.
What Should I Wear?
While there's no exact rules in how you should dress in Nara Park, it is much safer to opt for modest clothes that cover your arms and thighs. Especially if you're planning to visit the temples. The terrain is also uneven (and there will be deer's excretements everywhere so it is best to wear a pair of shoes that will cover your feet completely.
Best Time to Visit
It is best to visit Nara Park in June, the weather will be much warmer but not too humid, and there will be small chance of raining. Some parts of the park will be even more stunning as the leaves are changing colors (momiji).
Will I Need a Guide?
No, all informations you need about Nara Park and its surrounding attractions can be found in this website.
How To Get There?
Nara Park is strategically located between JR Station and Kintetsu Nara Station, you can easily reach the park by walking from one of them. You can also take a yellow-colored Loop Line Bus that will takes you to the park in 10 minutes. You can easily find it if you exit from the East Exit Gate of JR Station. Taxis are also available in both stations, though it might cost you higher than if you walk on foot or taking a public bus.