Nara City – Indulging in the History and Art of the Ancient Capital
Once the capital of Japan, Nara City is located in northern Nara prefecture and is less than an hour’s Kintetsu train ride from Namba Station in Osaka. It’s a must see when you visit Kansai, and one of the main—if not the main—attractions is Nara Park. Here you will find hundreds of wild, yet friendly deer roaming the fields, lounging in the grass and bowing for cookies. But if watching and feeding deer isn’t up your alley, here are a few other recommended places to visit (in no particular order).
Naramachi Koshi-no-ie is a replica house located in the merchant district that lets you see how people lived during the Edo period of Japan. It’s a quiet and relaxing place that features an interesting variety of exhibits, and even has a small garden inside. You can sit and soak up the history of the home and transport yourself back in time. Admission is free and there is information available in English as well. The Merchant district is an approximate 10 – 15 walk from the station.
Mayu is another converted house that was built in the Taisho Period (early 1900s) and has a unique mix of Japanese and Western style construction. Like other buildings in the area, this also was once a merchant house. It now serves as a tourist information centre as well as a small gallery. At the time of my visit, it had a whicker exhibit showcasing among other things, the Chinese zodiac. In truth, the layout of the centre is picturesque all by itself and worth a walk through.
Nara Craft Museum is a quiet and peaceful place to visit. It displays many treasures that were brought back to Japan from imperial missions to China. You can also find numerous examples of Japanese works based on those objects. For example, there is a display showing the history of the calligraphy brush going all the way back to the Han Dynasty of China. There are lacquerware crafts, pottery and so much more. When you visit, be sure to make a stop at the souvenir area as well.
If shopping is more of your thing, there is Kauri. It's a quaint little shop where you can find a variety of knick knacks, socks, bags and more. The fashion and colors are trendy, and you’re sure to lose time browsing this boutique, but it will be time well spent. With its incredibly reasonable prices guaranteed you will find something for yourself or a friend.
Nara City isn't just all museums, shops and boutiques however. There are also some very nice places to stop for a meal or snack. One such is Gohannoaida (ごはんの間). Here they offer an affordable and delicious lunch menu. The atmosphere is warm and the staff is delightfully friendly. It’s located near the end of the rarely travelled side of the shopping street at Kintetsu Nara Station.
There’s so much to say about this city, but it’s better to experience it. From the deer, to the museums to the boutiques, this is a trip you won’t soon forget.