While we were in Kyoto, we decided to take a day trip to Nara. This experience is why you absolutely need to schedule a trip to Nara during your time in Japan!
Mike: On our last full day in Japan, we took the train to Nara… or as we call it: “The Place with the Tame Deer.” I wasn’t sure if we wanted to take a day trip an hour out of town when we still had so much to see in Kyoto, but I’m glad we stuck to the plan, because Nara is awesome.
Megan: Nara was BY FAR my favorite part about the trip. I’d been itching to go since a friend of mine showed me a selfie she took with a deer. But I had no idea how completely incredible it would be for reals.
About five minutes after exiting the subway, you’re met with the cutest little deer! They’re just standing there on the sidewalk, like it ain’t no thing, near a man selling “deer crackers.” We bought a bunch and I started feeding them.
We were warned by friends and tons of posted signs, that the deer could be a bit aggressive:
But my fears were worse than the actual experience. At first it can be a bit frightening though when you feel that first bite on your jacket, and that first head butt on your, well, butt. You feel like you can’t feed them fast enough, so I fed them the entire bundle of crackers.
Mike wanted to try it, but we thought, “maybe he can do it on the way back.” And, figuring, this must be the deer portion or Nara, we continued on. Only to be met with more deer and another cracker seller! This time in a more idyllic park setting! So it was Mike’s turn — he fed the deer, he got nibbled and head butted and charmed by the deer all the same:
I petted and scratched them as much as I could, because I didn’t know when I’d get the chance again. Turns out… it’s fucking Nara, baby. You ALWAYS get another chance.
Everywhere we went, the most magical deer you’ve ever seen were just hanging out. Being cute and standing near the signs that guide you to the temple. Being cute and lounging near the bench you’re sitting on while you futz with your jacket. Being cute and coming out of nowhere when you’re trying to take a picture of the hilarious sign warning you about deer bites and kicks. Being cute and bowing furiously to try to get crackers from tourists.
Mike: You read that right: These deer actually bow. Some of them have been conditioned to be polite and bow for food.
Megan: I scratched a deer into a blissful sleepy state and could barely tear myself away to go inside the Todai-ji Temple. Which, by the way, the guidebook said was the largest wooden structure IN THE WORLD.
I had no idea how much that would impress me. But damn, that thing is big. And it houses the Daibutsuden — a HUMONGOUS bronze Buddha statue.
We walked around the temple, looking at more statues and watching people try to force their bodies through a hole that is supposedly the size of one of the Buddha statue’s nostril. If you can fit through it you’re said to be blessed with enlightenment in your next life.
Then we continued deeper into the Nara, and explored an area with more temples… which, by this point a gorgeous temple is a gorgeous temple, is a gorgeous temple. But what made this area REALLY cool was that it was set in an old forest, with deep growth and massive trees, and there were the thousands of stone lanterns lining the walkways.
Mike: I was actually looking for a cool hike our friend had recommended, but we ended up just exploring the grounds of the Kasuga-taisha Temple instead (AKA The Lantern Temple).
Megan: The lanterns were covered in moss and every now and then a deer would pop its head out between them, and ugh… those deer just let you pet them whenever you want too!
Nara, man… so fucking magical.
Speaking of magical:
Mike and I tracked down another okonomiyaki place listed in our guide book (one of our favorite dishes from our time in Tokyo). It was so good that I couldn’t stop putting it in my mouth, despite it being burning hot.
I faced the consequences later when we got back to Kyoto in the form of blisters and sore gums that made it hard to drink delicious Japanese whiskey at night.
BUT IT WAS ALL WORTH IT FOR THE PERFECT DAY TRIP TO NARA!