Nara Deer Park is Nara’s most vibrant and appreciated area where lots of famous attractions lie. Besides the above-mentioned Todaiji Temple, you can find the Nara National Museum, Kofukuji (興福寺) and Kasuga Taisha (春日大社) here as well.
The park is huge and easily one of the biggest in all of Japan (日本). Nara Park is most famous for its over 1,000 freely roaming deer that welcome you to the park. Since the park was established back in 1880, the deer have been playing a big part in its appeal.
As one of Japan’s cultural centers, Nara is still an important place for Japanese Buddhism and Shintoism. In the latter of the two, deer symbolizes a messenger of the gods, which is why so many of them are around the park.
The deer are very tame most of the time and will not get in your way, as they are quite used to people. Be careful if you decide to feed them though. You can buy crackers all around the park for a few 100 Yen (please do not feed them anything else). If you do so, nearby deer will notice quickly and possibly swarm you if you’re not careful.
Most of the time, the deer are very peaceful and some even bow to ask for food.
As I already mentioned before, some of Nara’s main attractions lie in Nara Park. Let me give you a quick summary:
There are 3 attractions that you definitely should not miss:
Todaiji Temple is arguably the most famous sight in all of Nara. Over 1,000 years ago, this temple was built to be the center of Japanese Buddhism. Today, with about 50 meters of length in every direction, it is still considered the world’s biggest wooden building. Inside, you can find a giant Buddha statue made of Bronze, which is also among the highest of its kind.
Entrance fee is 600 Yen (4,80€/$5.41; exchange rate as of April 2019) and opening hours range from 7:30/8:00 – 17:00/17:30 depending on the season.
Nara National Museum
Next up is something for anyone interested in Japanese history. As you know, Nara used to be the very first lasting Japanese capital and thus has a lot of ancient relics to show.
Dive into Nara’s rich history and learn about the early days of Japanese Buddhism.
Entry for a regular adult costs 520 Yen (4,16/$4.68). If you have a younger child coming with you (up until Junior High school age), you are eligible for the family fee which is 410 Yen (3,28€/$3.69). Children up until High School can enter free of charge.
Opening hours are usually from 9:30 – 17:00. More information on their English website.
Kasuga Taisha (Shrine)
Kasuga Grand Shrine is Nara’s most important shrine. With over 1,300 years in age, it’s also among the oldest in all of Japan. It used to be the head shrine of powerful families over 1,000 years ago. Today, it is appreciated as an ancient piece of history in Eastern Nara Park.
There are quite a few elements to Kasuga Taisha. The offering hall outside the main buildings is free to enter, but if you want to enter any of the other buildings, it will cost 500 Yen (4€/$4.50). There is also a museum and a botanical garden in the vicinity, both of which cost 500 Yen (each) as well.
The shrine itself is opened from 6:00/6:30 – 17:00/18:00 depending on the season.
These are just the 3 most popular ones. Other than that, there are over 10 other shrines and temples scattered around the park.
How to get to Nara Park
Nara Park is located east of both major train stations in Nara. From Kintetsu Nara Station, it’s about a 5-minute walk and from JR Nara Station you’ll get there in about 20 minutes. I highly recommend walking to the park, just as I do with all the attractions inside of it.
You can alternatively take buses that stop at multiple locations around the park.
As it is a public park there are of course no entry fees or closing hours.
Nara Park is one of the biggest and most impressive parks in all of Japan. Freely roaming deer is certainly special and something I have not seen in any other park so far. Along with that, the convenient locations of major tourist attractions within the park make it an even more attractive place to visit.
If you are even slightly interested in Japanese culture, history or tradition, a day trip to Nara (from either Kyoto (京都) or Osaka (大阪)) is absolutely worth it. You’ll be there in no time, for more info on access to Nara from the above-mentioned cities, check out my Nara Travel Guide.
And that’s it for Nara Park, I hope you enjoyed it!
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In my next post I will be talking about Osaka’s northern downtown area, Umeda!
See you there!