Nara (奈良) is an ancient capital city in Nara Prefecture, Kansai region of Japan. Throughout 2010 the city celebrated its 1300th anniversary. Overshadowed by its more famous neighbor Kyoto, Nara is omitted from many a time-pressed tourist’s itinerary. However, Nara is home to many important scenic and historical sites, and today preserves its main sights much more attractively than Kyoto within Nara Park and neighborhoods like Naramachi.
Along with the development of Heijōkyō (平城京), the capital of Japan between 710-784 AD, Nara flourished under the influence of Buddhism, leading to the creation of an enormous number of cultural assets, buildings and books, many of which are preserved today. Nara has the largest number of buildings designated National Treasures in Japan.
While the Heijōkyō Palace (平城宮) site turned into plain fields after the capital was moved to Kyoto, the shrines and temples were left on the east side of the palace (called Gekyo (外京)), and Buddhism remained influential throughout the following centuries. Another part of the area developed as a merchant town, notably in the Edo period, known as Naramachi (奈良町) today. …WikiTravel
Tōdai-ji (東大寺). Nov-Feb 8AM-4:30PM, Apr-Sep 7:30AM-5:30PM, Mar and Oct 8AM-5PM. Home to the famous Daibutsu (大仏), the largest Buddha statue in Japan and one of the largest in the world. The Daibutsu-den, which houses it, is said to be the largest wooden building in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The giant front gate, Nandai-mon, is guarded by two fierce, awe-inspiring protectors. It’s also swarmed by deer, who know this is the best place to come looking for a hand-out. Through the gate is a stone path leading to the outer walls surrounding the Daibutsu-den. Follow the signs to the left to enter the inner courtyard, and if you happen to have a stick of incense with you, join the crowd around the incense offerings before you head onward.
Kōfuku-ji (興福寺), 48 Noborioji-cho, ☎ +81 742 22-7755, . 9AM-5PM. This temple has a three-story and a five-story pagoda; historically, the latter has contended with Kyoto’s Toji for the title of Tallest Pagoda in Japan, although Kofuku-ji seems to have surrendered for now. Eastern Golden Hall ¥500.
Most of Nara’s sights, including temples, shrines and famously mercenary deer, are concentrated in Nara Park (奈良公園 Nara-kōen), a wide, pleasant space of greenery. According to legend, the god of the Kasuga Taisha came riding a white deer in the old days, so the deer enjoy protected status as envoys of the god; however, based on their current behavior, either the deer have lost the job, or the god has taken an extremely passionate interest in biscuits from tourists (¥150), empty food wrappers and harassing shopkeepers. …WikiTravel
Nara Park in Nara Prefecture is famous for its 1,000-plus-strong shika (native deer) population. These deer, considered to be messengers of the gods, are a national treasure and a protected species within the city’s limits, due to their sacred connection to Nara’s Kasuga Taisha Shrine. (soranews24.com)
It’s getting ever more crowded in the ancient capital of Nara as record numbers of two-legged visitors encounter record numbers of four-legged residents, creating concerns about the health and safety of both groups. (Japan Times)
An art installation featuring a telephone booth filled with water and dozens of goldfish will be removed from in front of a coffee shop in Nara Prefecture after an accusation of plagiarism, the local body managing the property said Wednesday. (Japan Times)