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 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
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
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
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.
The Soni Highlands offers various hiking trails and beautiful panoramic views of both regions. Reminiscent of one of the scenes from Studio Ghibli’s Nausicaa of the Valley of The Wind, a day trip to Soni Highlands is breathtakingly picturesque. The vast meadow extends from Mt. Kuroso to Mt.Kameyama located near the former ninja home of Nabari, Mie.
One of the best times to visit would be during the later autumn months, as the highlands are a great place to catch the sunset over the seemingly endless rows upon rows of pampas grass. During the evenings on warmer months, visitors can spot fireflies light up the nearby river.
Plan your trip to Nara with the locations below!