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Things to do in Nara

While the main attractions of Nara are the temples and shrines, there are a few other things to do in Nara that don't involve temples and shrines. After all, being in Japan, you'll probably start getting sick of temples and shrines!

 

Sanjo Dori

Sanjo Dori is a fun street that runs east away from the Nara park, and towards all the train stations. It’s worth taking a stroll down this street to see the shops and restaurants selling great food and wares.

You may have seen the video online where two men furiously smash long mallets into a pestle full of a squidgy looking mass - this video became viral on the internet. Nakatanidou is famous all over Japan for its dramatic mochi pounding (mochitsuki) of delicious yomogi mochi. Yomogi mochi is mochi pounded with mugwort plant which gives it a green colour and sweet refreshing taste. Then it is filled with sweet red bean paste and dusted with Kinako (roasted soybean powder) - a very guilt free treat! You can go see this process happening - It's great fun! I actually filmed it too. Nakatanidou is on the Nara Park end of Sanjo Dori. I would recommend you start here and walk down the street for abit.

Mochi is one of Japan's favourite foods and goes back a long time in history. It's chewy and gooey and very healthy! In my experiences some tourists and indeed my friends who I have introduced it to find the consistency quite unappetising but quickly grow to love it. There are many ways it is prepared. It’s baked and covered in Soya sauce, stuffed full of sweet red bean, boiled in broths with sweet red bean and black syrup, smashed up with green tea leaves etc. Nakatanidou is famous across Japan for its Yomogi mochi, I would highly recommend checking it out.

♦ Click here for google maps ♦

The start of Sanjo Dori, the Nara park end.

The start of Sanjo Dori, the Nara park end.

Nakatanidou, the famous mochi maker!

Nakatanidou, the famous mochi maker!

Super fresh, still warm mochi. So delicious

Super fresh, still warm mochi. So delicious

delicious

delicious

I recommend keeping strolling down sanjo dori. You will find lots of cool little eating places, shops, small shrines and gaming centres. If you’re up for it you can walk down Sanjo Dori all the way to the Heijo castle remains, which is a spectacular sight. The walk will take you 45 mins and there are lots of good restaurants on the way, plus far fewer tourists crowds. You just have to walk along Sanjo Dori westwards and then up to Heijo Palace Remains.

♦Click here for Heijo Palace remains on google maps ♦

Nara city was the capital of Japan for the majority of the Nara period (710 - 794) and the Heijo Palace was the residence for the Emperor and governmental offices giving it crucial historical and cultural importance, giving it the title of UNESCO World Heritage site of Nara.

Sanjo Dori - shops and restaurants that the locals go to

Sanjo Dori - shops and restaurants that the locals go to

Explore some of the side streets of Sanjo Dori

Explore some of the side streets of Sanjo Dori

Typical Japanese ramen bar on Sanjo dori

Typical Japanese ramen bar on Sanjo dori

Booking.com

Nara Deer

One of the main attractions to Nara is the thousands of wild but tame deer roaming around Nara park. Designated as a National Treasure, and historically considered sacred, there are over 1,200 wild deer (Shika) wandering around Nara Park and you can pet them, feed them, and take a selfie with them. They will even bow their heads to ask for Shika sembei (a tasteless biscuit that you can buy to feed them for 100 yen!).

Please pick up your trash! 6 deer have died this year alone from eating plastic trash left behind by tourists!

Wanna read more about the deer in Nara? Click here!

Deer selfie!

Deer selfie!

Making friends with the deer!

Making friends with the deer!

Let's feed the deer!

Let's feed the deer!

Check out some local food and shops

In my opinion, I would try and avoid Nara Park for food as they are all now, unfortunately, tourist traps. If you want to get some good local grub, it’s best to stroll around streets and areas away from Nara Park, depending on how much time you have.

If you are in a rush or are not wanting to spend ages walking around, you should check out Higashimuki Nakamachi. Nakamachi literally means ‘inside village’ - you get what it says on the tin. It’s a street with lots of restaurants and eateries under the cover of a sort of roof. It’s on the right as you exit Kintetsu Nara station. It is a little touristy but the food is cheap, authentic and good. It's also a good location because you can get a bite to eat as you arrive at Nara, or just before you leave as it's by the main station.

♦Click here for google maps ♦

On the opposite side of the traffic lights, the crossing is Higashimuki-kita, which is similar to Higashimuki-Nakamachi but it has no roof over the top. Take a stroll down there and you will find some nice little restaurants and eateries.

♦Click here for google maps ♦

Higashimuki Nakamachi - lots of shops and restaurants

Higashimuki Nakamachi - lots of shops and restaurants

Higashimuki Kita entrance

Higashimuki Kita entrance

Higashimuki Kita is nicely hidden away and not too busy

Higashimuki Kita is nicely hidden away and not too busy

My favourite Ramen spot. You'll find it a few shops down on the right hand side from the entrance. There will be a queue but it's worth it!

My favourite Ramen spot. You'll find it a few shops down on the right hand side from the entrance. There will be a queue but it's worth it!

Explore the back streets in the evening!

A really fun thing to do in Nara is to explore the backstreets and little paths through Nara park at dusk/evening. This way you avoid the crowds, you get a really atmospheric, slightly spooky experience of Nara. In fact, the cobbled backstreets around Todai-ji and Kasuga-Taisha will make you feel like you’re in a Samurai movie. Indeed a not even that long ago samurai would have been walking around these streets as Nara used to be the capital of Japan. So step back in time and grab some spooky Samurai movie vibes and go for a walk around the back streets behind Todaiji and Kasugatisha in the evening. Also, a great place to go in the evening is Nigatsu-do, which boasts great views over Nara city - which looks great at night with all the lights. 

The spooky samurai backstreets of Nara park

The spooky samurai backstreets of Nara park

Explore the little paths and hidden areas of Nara Park

Explore the little paths and hidden areas of Nara Park

The hidden areas of Nara park

The hidden areas of Nara park

Nigatsu-do deck at night with epic views over Nara

Nigatsu-do deck at night with epic views over Nara

Nigatsu-do deck at night- another angle

Nigatsu-do deck at night- another angle

 

 

Kansai Local are doing private tours and adventures to places that tourists don't know about. If this sounds awesome, get in touch with us and we will get back to you! 

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