See Nara in a Day from Osaka

In a world of Buddhist culture, shrines, and ancient gardens only an hour from Osaka, intriguing Nara’s popularity sees many local and foreign visitors.

A little background

Heijo-kyo, the imperial capital of Japan between 710 to 784, was located where Nara city is located today. Several historical sites are registered with UNESCO’s World Heritage List as “Historical Monuments of Ancient Nara”, cementing Nara’s importance in Japan.

Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Modern Nara

Enriched in ideas and technology from Europe, China, and Korea as a result of the Silk Road, Nara’s 1,300 years of architecture and art make the city a living museum.

Opposite Nara National Museum, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Starting to bloom – opposite Nara National Museum

What to see

Aged authentic townhouses, historic sites, Buddhist treasures, temples and shrines including Shinto temples, wooden Pagodas, and Mt. Kasuga’s Primeval Forest will keep you exploring Nara for a day (or more).

Nara Park

With origins dating back to at least the 8th century and in the central part of the city, Nara Park is home to around 1,200 deer roaming its vast grounds. The touristy thing to do at the park is buy Shika Senbei (deer crackers) from one of the tiny mobile stalls, to feed the deer with as they’re very tame.

deer, Nara Park, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Playfully tame

Nara Park is only around a 15-20 minute walk up Sanjodori Street.

Why so many deer?

Legend has it that in the 8th century, a mighty God from Kashima Shrine rode into Nara on a white deer. Since then, deer have been seen as the protected and respected divine messengers of God.

deer, Nara Park, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia

Kasugayama Primeval Forest

Soaring beech trees and ancient evergreen oaks tower the grounds of the Kasugayama Primeval Forest on Mt Kasuga.

Forbidden from felling for over 1,000 years, the trees bring respite to this sacred mountain, home to the Kasuga Taisha Shrine.

Pagodas, Shrines, and Temples

Amble through Nara’s endless fascinating pagodas, shrines, and temples – only a few are mentioned in this post.

Kōfuku-ji Temple

Founded in 669 and one of Nara’s eight historic sites, the expansive Buddhist Kōfuku-ji Temple site includes several intricate wooden halls…

Southern Road Hall, Nan'endō, Kōfuku-ji Temple, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Intricate craftsmanship – Southern Road Hall, Nan’endō

…and Pagodas. includes the five-storied Pagoda. Standing 50.1 metres tall, this Pagoda is the second-highest in Japan.

More shrines around Nara

Nara boasts a plethora of shrines sprinkled throughout the city and its outskirts. You can easily forget the number of shrines that you visit in one day.

Another Pagoda

three-story Pagoda, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Three-story Pagoda

Ara-Ike Pond

Only a five-minute walk from Nara City, a reservoir whose source is the Isagawa River (Bodaigawa River), Ara-Ike Pond offers a lovely picnic spot and a long stroll around its long perimeter towards Ukimido.

The pond’s history is unclear but may have started in 1589, dried up in the 18th century, and restored in the 19th century. Then, in the 20th century, the pond’s use was to maintain water for agricultural irrigation purposes.

Naramachi Koshi-no-Ie (ならまち格子の家)

Visit the narrow lane of Nara’s former merchant district, Naramachi (奈良町) and step back in time while experiencing one of the Naramachi Koshi-no-Ie houses open to the public.

Also known as the Lattice House, the Naramachi Koshi-no-Ie’s depiction of a traditional Japanese house is authentic.

Naramachi Koshi-no-Ie, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Naramachi Koshi-no-Ie – Lattice House

With gorgeous dark polished timber floors protected by large rattan mats and huge round timber posts for internal support…

Naramachi Koshi-no-Ie, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Living room (Naka-no-ma)

…the deep interior opens to quaint traditional rooms and a Japanese inner garden (Naka-niwa). These old urban townhouses (Machiya) served as workplaces and residences for local merchants.

Naramachi Koshi-no-Ie, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Serene Japenese inner garden (Naka-niwa)

The steep timber stairwell is built in the traditional box staircase (Hako-Kaidan) to preserve space and create a storage area.

Naramachi Koshi-no-Ie, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Boxstair case (Hako-Kaidan)

The skylight (Akari-tori) rising high above the earthen kitchen (Doma), allowed sunlight to enter freely while also circulating air.

Naramachi Koshi-no-Ie, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Kitchen (Doma) and skylight (Akari-tori)

Naramachi Koshi-no-Ie is free entry and open to the public.

Wander further along the street to see more of these older houses with tiny doorways and mysterious windows. The slatted wooden lattice-work covering windows (Koshi) acted as a double-sided mirror at the front of these traditional pretty houses. This allowed occupants of the house to look out onto the street without being seen.

Random photos

women-only passenger car boarding area platform sign, Osaka City Train Station, Umeda, Japan, Asia
Yes, there really are women-only train carriages
public squat toilet, Osaka, Japan, Asia
Japanese squat – public toilet
public toilet, Osaka, Japan, Asia
My fascination with spotlessly clean Japanese toilets, warm toilet seats, and electronic bidets
Vending machines, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Vending machines are everywhere
sign, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Food and hair

Where to eat

Many restaurants and cafes dot the streets of Nara City, including a couple of supermarkets for cheaper ready-made eats.

Cafe de Crie

Stop at the Cafe de Crie for good coffee and yummy cake at reasonable prices considering Nara is a tourist destination. Clean cafe and friendly service.

Cafe de Crie, Nara, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Cafe de Crie

Okest Fresh Mart

One delicacy to taste in Nara is deer and although deer is sacred here, it’s sold in souvenir shops and the Okest Fresh Mart.

Be warned, the pickled deer (I nicknamed Bambi) in cream cheese is nothing like I’ve tasted before and is awful. I’m not recommending this at all but try some if you feel the need.

A well-stocked supermarket with reasonable prices, the Okest Fresh Mart is famous for its pickled vegetables but it is quite pricy.

Where is Nara?

Nestled in the southern-central region of Japan’s main island Honshū, Nara is within easy reach of the city of Osaka, which makes this a great day trip as there is quite a lot to see in Nara.

Getting there from Osaka

Make your way to the metro lines from the Osaka City Train Station in Umeda.

Osaka City Train Station at night, Umeda, Japan, Asia
Modern Osaka City Train Station

Take the purple metro line from Minami-morimachi to Higashi-Umeda (¥180).

On arriving at Higashi-Umeda, take the Kintetsu Limited Express train to Nara, for the 50-minute journey. Trains to Nara leave every half-hour.

map of #Osaka to #Nara, #Honshu Island, #Japan, #Asia

The train travels through Osaka’s congested suburbs for around half an hour before larger homes, green space, and rolling hills form the landscape, replacing urban modernity.

The easy return journey from Nara to Osaka is the same but in reverse and also leaves every half-hour. Information for the Osaka Metro Route map.

Coming next: Historic Hiroshima

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.

Note: All photos by Nilla’s Photography unless otherwise mentioned. No part of this post was composed with the help of ChatGPT or AI.


12 responses to “See Nara in a Day from Osaka”

  1. Roentare Avatar

    You are such a travel photographer that documents the journey so effectively with your photography.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for your lovely feedback! I see that you’re also a travel photographer and have some great images!

  2. karenincalabria Avatar

    Thanks for the post. I had the opportunity to visit Japan for my nephew’s wedding a few years ago. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to travel around much, but I, too, was fascinated with the incredibly clean and inventive toilets. I also remember visiting a merchant’s house in the town of Utsunomyia (where we were staying and by no means a tourist town) that looked very similar to the one in your photos – box staircase, garden, etc. I really enjoyed my visit and would like to see more.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Karen
      What a shame you didn’t get to travel more through Japan as there’s so much to see in this amazing country. Ha, ha, the toilets are a treat and fascinating to check out as there are so many variations. 😉
      I haven’t been to Utsunomyia but looked it up and see it’s north of Tokyo. The traditional homes are lovely.
      Hope all is well with you and your tours in Calabria.
      Thanks for your comment!

      1. karenincalabria Avatar

        Yes, Utsunomyia is near Nikko National Park, which I enjoyed, and it’s the dumpling capital of Japan!

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Shame I missed it as I absolutely love dumplings and would have visited just for its dumplings! Lucky you. 😉

  3. Yetismith Avatar

    If I had another lifetime, I would like to spend it in Japan. Everything there is so different. I would be fascinated by it all. When we were in Vietnam in 1958 my dad got “local leave” and took mum to Japan (and Formosa). They decided I would much rather go back to Cambodia to stay with my Australian friend there. I was happy enough but have always wished I could have gone to Japan then. I remember Mum telling me about the deer at Nara. Dad brought back a Hiroshige print that I still have. I think it got folded at one time, but I love it.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Remember you mentioning this in another of my posts about Japan. What a shame you didn’t get to go in 1958 as I’m sure it would have been a very different country to now. At least you saw Cambodia a long time ago. It would be interesting if you returned and to know how it’s changed over the decades. 😉 What a lovely souvenir from Japan.
      I would love to return to Japan as there’s still so much to explore but also, it’s such a clean and easy country for travel.

  4. Toonsarah Avatar

    We only had time for one day trip from Osaka and it was a toss-up between Hiroshima and Nara. I’m not sorry we opted for the former as I feel privileged to have visited, but I wish we could have managed Nara too, especially after seeing this post. I knew about the deer of course but I hadn’t realised there were so many lovely shrines! The Naramachi Koshi-no-Ie looks very like the merchant houses we visited in Takayama – just beautiful!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It’s a hard decision but if I had to choose, I would have gone to Hiroshima also (my next post). There’s so much to see in Japan that as with other destinations, you can never see everything. 🙁
      Thanks for your feedback, Sarah!

  5. strategyninja2023 Avatar

    <3 🙂

    Unleash a torrent of wealth with the unstoppable force of the Ninja Strategy!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks for your comment!

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