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Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Nara
Population
1,442,862

Nara

The birthplace of Japanese civilization

Nara prefecture is where you’ll find the immemorial tombs of Japan’s early rulers, its first Buddhist temple and the headquarters of the sacred Shugendo mountain religion.

Much of the Japan we know today was formed in Nara prefecture and many of the ancient customs that laid the foundations for modern Japanese culture are still practiced here. It’s a place that can get packed with tourists but also offers plenty of opportunity for total isolation; just let your spirit guide you.

Nara prefecture’s famous sites are concentrated around its capital city, also called Nara. Home to some of Japan’s most important historical landmarks, including the jaw-dropping Todai-ji temple and its 15 meter tall bronze Buddah, Nara city is a popular day trip from nearby Kyoto and Osaka. Just to the south of the city, Horyu-ji temple claims to be the oldest wooden building in the world and contains images of a Japan some 1,300 years ago.

Heading further south, Asuka was one of the first capitals of Japan and the base for for its original imperial rulers. When Buddhism arrived from the Korean peninsula, it became an important source of religious teachings – 6th century Asukadera Temple is the first full-scale temple built in Japan and enshrines one of the oldest remaining images of Buddah.

Make a pilgrimage to the Nara section of the UNESCO Sacred Sites in the Kii Mountain Range to experience a spiritual awakening among the Shugendo mountain-dwellers. The mountains of Yoshino and Omine are linked by ancient pilgrimage routes leading to Nara and Kyoto that are still used by priests in training today.

The picturesque village of Yoshino is used to dealing with large crowds of tourists who come during cherry blossom season to witness the spectacular sight of 30,000 flowering trees along the mountain slopes. Omine, on the other hand, has been the subject of some controversy due to its ban on women climbing the mountain. There is a section of Omine that is reserved for women, however, and the ban is not actively enforced, though the community ask that tourists respect their traditions.

Places to visit

Nara

Eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites guarded by some very hungry deer.

Isuien and Yoshikien Gardens of Nara

Two peaceful oases in the middle of Nara.


Todai-ji temple in Nara

Todaiji Temple

Only got room for one temple on your itinerary? Make it Todaiji.

Nara Park

Divine deer at one of the oldest parks in Japan.


Mount Wakakusa

Feel the burn...

Kashihara Jingu

An impressive shrine dedicated to the first Emperor and the origin of civilization in Japan.


Asuka Mura

The green areas around Nara Prefecture represent an attempt by nature to retain its dominion despite the constant encroaching by the major cities that most tourists visit in the Kansai Region. In the outskirts...

Koriyama Castle

Romance comes alive.


Mount Yoshino

Discover the three faces of this mystical mountainous area and popular tourist spot for cherry blossoms.

Oka-dera Temple

A Prison for a Dragon.


Chogosonshi-ji Temple

Even a pacifist country has a temple for the God of war.

Uneme Festival

Though rooted in sorrow, it's a stunning summer festival.


Gango-ji Temple

Infinite possibilities.

Kasuga Taisha

On the south side of Nara Park, not far from the famous Nara temples of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji, one can find a long, wide path flanked with stone lanterns. At the end...


Nakatanidou Mochi Shop

The fastest mochi pounders in town!

Hozan-ji Temple

Lose yourself in the beauty of this peaceful mountainside temple.


Man’yo Botanical Garden

This literary allusion is not coincidence.

Yakushi-ji & Shinyakushi-ji Temples

Medicine and Mystery.


Kofuku-ji Temple

Art meets history at this UNESCO Heritage Site.

Horyu-ji Temple

Step inside ancient Japan.


Omiwa Shrine and Mount Miwa

A sacred Shinto shrine and a wholly holy mountain.

Takatori Castle Ruins

An imposing fortress on the mountain top.


Mount Ikoma

 Sacred temples and shrines and a theme park atop the mountain all in Osaka’s backyard.

Sagi-ike Pond

A secretive peaceful oasis in the middle of Nara.


Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail

Hiking Japan’s oldest road.

Other Destinations in Kansai

Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture

Hyogo

Touted as ‘a Japan in miniature’, Hyogo is one of Japan’s most diverse prefectures.

Amanohashidate or Bridge to Heaven in Kyoto Prefecture

Kyoto

Break the tourist mould and head outside of the city to uncover the rest of what Kyoto has to offer.

Maruyama rice terraces at sunset, Mie prefecture

Mie

The first signs of human habitation on Mie can be traced back 10,000 years and that’s only one of this ancient prefecture’s historical claims to fame.

Osaka, Japan skyline at Osaka Castle Park, Osaka Prefecture

Osaka

Japan's second smallest prefecture is the economic and commercial hub of the Kansai region, driven by it's kaleidoscopic capital city Osaka.

Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture

Shiga

Shiga prefecture is so full of scenic views you’ll feel as though you’ve tripped and fallen into a postcard.

Nachi, Japan at the pagoda of Seigantoji and Nachi no Taki waterfall, Wakayama Prefecture

Wakayama

Wakayama prefecture is the spectacular, spiritual heart of Japan.