In this article, I would like to share some of my pictures that I took in 奈良 (Nara) when I used to live there. Located in the south of the Kansai region, Nara is known for its beautiful cherry blossoms and autumn leaves, traditional temples and shrines, and, of course, endearing wild deer. The old capital of Japan shows different faces in every season, and I highly recommend you visit it on your next trip to Japan!
When you set foot in Nara and go around for a couple of minutes, you’ll be amazed to see a herd of cute and tame wild deer walking along the road, especially in Nara Park. In Nara, deer is regarded as a sacred animal and protected as a natural monument of Japan (天然記念物). You can buy rice crackers for deer (鹿せんべい) on the street and feed and pat them. However, please never feed them anything other than the deer cookies, or litter the street – they are dying from swallowing 3-4 kgs of plastic bags left by irresponsible tourists. Also, don’t flaunt deer snacks and tease the animals, as you may end up being injured by the irate deers.
The pictures of deer below are taken at the place called “鹿苑 (Rokuen)”, the deer protection facility which shelters fawns and their mothers. Every June (not this year due to the pandemic), there is an event (子鹿公開) where you can have a chance to see a great number of cute little child deers.
Spring: Cherry Blossoms Alongside 佐保川 (Saho River)
佐保川 (Saho River) is famous for its breathtaking cherry blossoms. The river runs through the Nara city and is very easy to reach from 奈良駅 (Nara station). To get to exactly where I took the pictures below, you first get off Shin-Ōmiya Station (新大宮駅) and just have a 15-minute walk to the river (you can see it from the train if you take the one bound for Nara station via Shin-Ōmiya Station), and the spectacular scenery will await you – trust me, there are no embellishment or adept skills required whatsoever to take those pictures! Besides, since it has not become a very touristy spot, you can enjoy the views even with taking a copious social distance!
Summer: Heijo Tempyo Summer Festival
These are the pictures of the Former Site of the Heijō Imperial Palace, which once stood as the centre of the ancient capital of Japan and is now preserved as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Like Saho River, the palace is easily accessible from 奈良駅 (Nara station) by train. These pictures were taken at the summer event called “Heijō Tempyo Summer Festival (天平たなばた祭り)“, which celebrates “Tanabata” a.k.a. the “Star Festival” in Japan: the romantic story of two lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by the stars Vega and Altair, who are allowed to meet each other only once a year.
Autumn: Autumn Leaves at 吉野山 (Mount Yoshino)
吉野山 (Mount Yoshino) is located in the middle of Nara and known for its breathtaking cherry blossoms and autumn leaves. Since I’ve never been there in spring, here I share the photos of the autumn leaves. To get to the mountain, you can either take a train, join a bus tour, or drive a car.
If You Plan to Travel to Nara…
A Free and Private Guide Tour by Local University Students
Some of my friends run a student volunteer organisation called “Nara Student Guide”. If you ever have got a chance to visit Nara, I highly recommend you have their free, private and joyful guide presented by the local university students! Are you very keen to go there but unable to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Don’t worry – they say they’re going to deliver an online guide in November, so you will be able to experience travelling to Nara from your home!
Let’s Learn the Basics of the Kansai Dialect
If you’re eager to interact with the locals in Nara and know its culture more deeply, why not try speaking a bit of their dialect called “Kansai-ben”? Here are my two entries that explain its basic grammar and vocabulary that you can use to impress local people!