Whilst Kyoto seems quaint, small and cozy, it’s actually an extremely busy city. Probably the busiest city when it comes to tourism in Japan! If you’re looking for an escape from the city for a day or afternoon, then you should definitely add the small town of Nara to your itinerary.
How to get to Nara from Kyoto
From Kyoto Station, catch the JR Nara Line Rapid Service to Nara Station. It takes about 45 minutes and comes about once every half hour.
Why you should hire a bike at Nara Station
Once at Nara, I would highly recommend hiring a bike to get around. From memory, the road from Nara station to Nara Park was quite flat and small, so there wasn’t too much traffic to confront for those who are nervous about riding in a foreign country. I did it and I’m barely any good! We rented our bike from a bike rental place next to Nara Station. From the ground floor of Nara Station, take the north exit and turn right. Walk this direction and pass a bicycle parking space before seeing a bike rental shop on your right. It’s about 700yen for the day.
It’s a little hard to find however if you head to the Tourism information office, a well signposted building next to Nara Station, they can provide you with maps and point you in the right direction for bike rental.
If you could only fit one thing in at Nara..
Then it should be feeding the deer at Nara Park! Nara Park is a short bike ride from the station (about 1 km). At Nara Park, look out for a stall that sells deer biscuits so you can feed the deer! There are so many deer at Nara Park and it’s so fun to spend an afternoon interacting with the animals here. Do note that the deer here can get very eager when it comes to being fed so if they see food or have bowed to you requesting food they’ve seen you holding, it’s a good idea to surrender it to them because if not, you might get stalked or head-butted by them. True story, happened to me!
The bike comes in real handy at Nara as the park is quite large so it can get you quickly to more secluded spots to feed deer, as well as all the attractions nearby.
Other things to check out at Nara
Mochi Making Demonstration: On the road to Nara Park, there is a really popular shop that makes mochi and also does mochi demonstrations every 10-ish minutes. Check out this video I posted of it on Instagram, it’s such a sight!
Todaiji Temple: Also on the road to Nara Park is Todaiji Temple. It is a famous buddhist temple and landmark in Nara and is nice to pass by to have a look.
Try persimmon leaf sushi: One of Nara’s specialties is persimmon leaf sushi. Whilst you can find these in Kyoto as well, persimmon leaf wrapped sushi actually originated from Nara so why not try it out whilst you’re here! The sushi is wrapped in persimmon leaf and is fermented and absolutely delicious. We love having persimmon leaf sushi bento boxes as a snack whilst on train rides.