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

Nara

The birthplace of Japanese civilization

Beyond mystical deer, Nara Prefecture is where you’ll find the tombs of Japan’s early rulers 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 opportunities for total isolation. Just let your spirit guide you.

The Temples of Nara

Todai-ji temple in Nara

The magnificent Todai-ji temple houses one of the tallest Buddha in Japan.

Nara Prefecture’s famous sites are concentrated around its capital city, also called Nara. It’s home to some of Japan’s most historical landmarks, including the jaw-dropping Todai-ji Temple and its 15-meter tall bronze Buddha. This ancient 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 Japan from some 1,300 years ago.

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

Hiking in Nara

Mount Yoshino in Nara, Japan

Nara’s Mount Yoshino is popular for cherry blossom viewing in spring.

There’s more to this historical prefecture than temples, though. Make a pilgrimage to the Nara section of the UNESCO World Heritage Kumano Kodo trail to experience a spiritual awakening among the Shugendo mountain-dwellers.

5 Famous Foods You'll Find in Nara

Kuzu Mochi
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. The ban is not always actively enforced, but the community asks that tourists respect their traditions. There is one section of the mountain that is reserved for women.

Plan your trip to Nara with the locations below!

Trivia

Kuzu Mochi

5 Famous Foods You'll Find in Nara

Mmmm rice cakes.

More

Places to visit

Cherry blossoms among the Yoshino mountains in Nara prefecture

Mount Yoshino

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

Koriyama Castle in Nara, Japan.

Koriyama Castle

Romance comes alive.


Mount Wakakusa

Burn, baby burn. Mountain inferno.

Uneme Festival

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


Kuzu Mochi

5 Famous Foods You’ll Find in Nara

History through food.

Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail

Hiking Japan’s oldest road.


Isuien and Yoshikien Gardens of Nara

Two peaceful oases in the middle of Nara.

Sagi-ike Pond

A secretive peaceful oasis in the middle of Nara.


Mount Ikoma

A theme park atop a mountain all in Osaka’s backyard.

Takatori Castle Ruins

An imposing fortress on the mountain top.


Omiwa Shrine and Mount Miwa

A sacred Shinto shrine and a wholly holy mountain.

Horyu-ji Temple

Step inside ancient Japan.


Kofuku-ji Temple

Art meets history at this UNESCO Heritage Site.

Yakushi-ji & Shinyakushi-ji Temples

Medicine and Mystery.


Man’yo Botanical Garden

This literary allusion is not coincidence.

Hozan-ji Temple

Lose yourself in the beauty of this peaceful mountainside temple.


Nakatanidou Mochi Shop

The fastest mochi pounders in town!

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...


Gango-ji Temple

Infinite possibilities.

Chogosonshi-ji Temple

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


Oka-dera Temple

A Prison for a Dragon.

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...


Kashihara Jingu

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

Nara Park

Divine deer at one of the oldest parks in Japan.


Todai-ji temple in Nara

Todai-ji Temple

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

Nara

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

Other Destinations in Kansai

Himeji Castle in Hyogo, Japan.

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.

Meoto Iwa Rocks in Mie, Japan.

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.

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