After the crowd in Central Kyoto, the wide and sprawling space and parks in Nara is such a welcome break. You can almost feel you are one with nature, especially since deer are roaming freely around. There comes a time though when the deer can be overwhelming, especially when they strongly nudge your sides and behind for some biscuit that numerous tourists had indulged them with, over time. Never fret though, there’s plenty of space in Nara to get away from them gentle deer.
One such place is the Kasugayama Primeval Forest and the Garden of Kasuga Taisha Shrine. A World Heritage Site and considered a sacred forest, as hunting and logging has been banned in the Kasugayama Primeval Forest since 841 AD thence preserving its primeval condition and making it a sanctuary for various protected species here in Japan.
One of the roads leading to Kasugayama Primeval Forest.Along the path is the deer enclosure wherein you can see deer peacefully meandering around. Interesting trees and streams (manmade or not, I couldn’t be too sure) can also be seen along the way.
See the criss-crossed trees yonder? Manmade or nature-wrought?
If you’re coming from the Great Todaiji Temple, the walk to the Kasugayama Forest can be quite a distance. But then as you walk further down the road, this warm and cozy-looking café is right there by the roadside, seemingly like an unexpected beacon and haven, inviting you to come inside and take a rest from your walk. Welcome to the Kasuga Ninai Jaya.
Ninai Jaya was hailed by Tabelog (Japan’s largest restaurant review website) as Best Sweets 2014; the award seal of which is proudly displayed right at the café’s entrance and near the counter.
We just had a heavy lunch less than a couple of hours before we came upon Ninai Jaya but the place was so inviting we found ourselves wanting to drop by the place and enjoy the ambiance and its sweets. It was also already getting dark so we decided to forego visiting the Kasuga Taisha Garden and instead just relax at Ninai Jaya. I could easily say we had a smile on our face the whole time we were in Ninai Jaya. Set in the middle of the park with the forest surround, Ninai Jaya offers a great balance of nature and comfort with good food.
If you want to enjoy your sweets alfresco, you can opt to sit out in their mushroom-inspired outdoor tables and chairs which are littered at the back premises. Ah, I would love to hang out in this restaurant during autumn. Imagine the great view for the koyo! Those shades are also refreshingly lovely during summer, for sure.
As we went to Nara on a warm late September and we just had lunch, we wanted a good light snack to cool down with. Ninai Jaya’s clear warabimochi and relaxing cold green tea excellently met our need.
Did I say we were full? Alas, we couldn’t but help and have a portion of their Kaki (Persimmon) Cake. Needless to say it was a good decision.
Interested? Look out for signs pointing you to this cozy treasure in the middle of the forest.
Kasuga Ninai Jaya is open from 10 am to 4 pm, daily.
Please visit Kasuga Ninai Jaya’s website to get to know more about this garden café and to know more about Ninai Jaya’s unique style.