Enjoy Nara In Two Days! A Recommended Itinerary
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Enjoy Nara In Two Days! A Recommended Itinerary

Nara 2016.10.20

Nara is a city with a rich history: temples, shrines and buildings that were constructed in ancient Japan are preserved here. Enjoy the best of this wonderful city in two days with this recommended itinerary.

Translated byAllie

A nomad traveler, teacher and translator. Speaks English, Japanese, basic Chinese and some Russian.

Written by Jumpei Kawashima

Explore Nara's Must-Visit Attractions in Two Days!

Nara was the ancient capitol of Japan, even before Kyoto held that title, and as such has a far longer history. Here you can still find buildings, especially shrines and temples, that date from Japan's earliest days. As you might know, Nara is located close to Kyoto and Osaka, which makes it an ideal destination to stop off and explore more of the Kansai region other than these two cities.

In Nara, there are eight temples which have been registered as World Heritage Sites, called collectively the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara". We would like to introduce an itinerary for you to discover Nara in two days and one night. This itinerary includes visits to those eight temples.

If you want to get a great deal on transportation, please make sure to get a Nara World Heritage Free Ticket. You can purchase this ticket at any stations of the Kintestu Railway. This pass allows you to have unlimited rides on Nara Kotsu Bus Lines and Kintetsu lines for a day.

A two day pass which costs 2000 yen is also available. Please check the details of its area of coverage on their official website (English/Traditional Chinese/Simplified Chinese/Korean/Thai).

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The Mysterious Historical City Of Nara

Day 1 Morning: Nara Park, Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Grand Shrine and Kofukuji

The starting point of our two day trip is Nara park. Nara park, located in the center of Nara city. is a huge park that more than 1200 deer call home. Inside of Nara park, there are three temples which are on the world heritage site list. Let's visit these three temples first.

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Are There Really Deer Everywhere In Nara Park?

Todaiji temple, located inside of Nara park, is one of the most famous attractions in Nara - this is the location of the Great Buddha statue.

One of the pillars of the Great Buddha Hall has a hole in it which is the same size as the Great Buddha statue's nostrils. It is said that passing though this hole will bring you happiness. Please give it a try.

Read More about Todaiji Temple:

Todai-ji: Slip Back In Time When Visiting Nara’s Great Buddha Hall

Besides Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Grand Shrine is another must visit attraction within Nara park. If you pay a visit to Kasuga Grand Shrine, your wishes related to love and encounters will come true.

Kofukuji Temple is located in the western part of Nara park and was founded by the Fujiwara family who used to dominate the Japanese imperial government. A must for visitors are the three storied pagoda and the five storied pagoda which are both national treasures in Japan.

Once you have savor those three world heritage sites, let's move on to the next spot.

Day 1 Afternoon: The World Heritage Site Gangoji Temple

Gangoji temple is located within walking distance from Nara park. This venerable temple is also listed as a World Heritage Site.

The roof tiles of this temple are from Asuka period (from the late 6th century to the early 8th century) which means they are considered the oldest roof tiles in Japan. How about taking a closer look at this building, where you're sure to feel the weight of history?

Day 1 From Evening to Night: Stroll Around Nara-machi

Nara-machi, located in Nara city, is an area where Japanese traditional townscapes can be seen. Town houses built during the Edo period have been remodeled and are used as restaurants, stores and accommodation facilities these days.

If you spend enough time here you'll come to appreciate what Nara-machi is like, and then the first day is over. You might want to stay at a hotel in one of these renovated town houses in Nara-machi.

Day 2 Morning: The Splendor of Yakushiji Temple and Heijo Palace

Let's start off the second day with Yakushiji Temple. Yakushiji temple, also listed as a world heritage site, is a Buddhist temple complex consisting of eight different buildings. A characteristic of these buildings is their distinct architectural style influenced by the Tang dynasty.

The main object you cannot miss in Yakushiji temple is the 'Yakushi nyorai' (the Medicine Buddha), which has been designated as a National Treasure. The site is massive, so please take your time as you look around.

Once you are done with Yakushiji Temple, make your way to Heijo palace. The Heijo Palace is located on the site of an ancient palace dating to the time when Nara was the capital of Japan. The original buildings, which were destroyed in the past, were reconstructed here, allowing visitors to get a glimpse of what the area once looked like.

Its buildings are designed based on Chang'an, which was an ancient capital in China during the Tang dynasty. It is one of the many places where you can get a taste of Nara's historical glory.

Then we will head to Horyuji Temple by train from Heijo palace.

Day 2 Afternoon: The Oldest Wooden Architecture in the World - Horyuji Temple

Horyuji Temple was built in the 7th century and is recognized as the oldest wooden architecture in the world. This temple was originally commissioned by Prince Shōtoku who was the regents of the country when this temple was constructed.

Horyuji Temple is perhaps most popular for its five-storey pagoda. Although it is also part of the World Heritage list, entry to this site is free. You shouldn't miss it!

Day 2 From Evening to Night: Visit Ishibutai Kofun in Asuka Village

Let's now go to Asuka village, which is located just outside of Nara city. Asuka village is an area which gives you an idea of what an ancient Japan looked like. It is about a one hour train ride from Nara city. Renting a bike here is also recommended if you want to visit around the whole area.

Within the Asuka Historical National Government Park in Asuka village, the Ishibashi kofun (*1) is found. Only a stone coffin remains now, but this gave its name to the surrounding area - Ishibutai. If you visit Asuka village, the Asuka Historical National Government Park is a must.

Our two-day trip to Nara is over. This trip focused mainly on those sites that have been recognized internationally for their value as World Heritage sites. Nara is the best place to experience the world of ancient Japan, so if you would like to experience a world older than Kyoto, why not plan out your Nara trip based on our suggested itinerary?

*1 Kofun: an ancient mound-style tomb reserved for people of high social status in ancient Japan.

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