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a VirtualTourist member from New York City


Walking Tours of Nara?

Hello. We will be in Nara for just one day, and want to make the most of it.
I found this website: that looks like it has nice walking tours. Has anyone heard of them, or do you recommend others? I was thinking of the standard Narapark tour, but was also interested in the other places. The afternoon walk of the old section of town with all the shops interested me too, maybe to do by ourselves after the Narapark guided walking tour. In just one day, how much could we do, given the distances among places?
Thank you.

12 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Albuquerque

Visiting Nara is wonderful. It's Japan's oldest capital and my favorite place to visit whenever I go home in Tokyo. The website you mentioned offers good tours. The Nara Park tour is a must and it's cost is reasonable. In the afternoon, you can walk around old part of the City yourself. Nara is a small city and has good bus system. Although you can do the Nara Park yourself I think you can get more information and not miss important and interesting spots if done with a guide. In Nara enjoy mingling with deer that are considered sacred animals and are protected by the City. They are tame and bow when you give them food (sold here and their in the Park).

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New York City

Thank you. We are going to be spending several days in Tokyo and then a day in Kyoto as well but I am MOST excited about going to Nara.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Jerusalem

When I visited Nara, the deer in the entry to the Toda--ji Temple were very excited that I purchased food for them. I was surrounded. It was fun, but when I didn't hand out the 'biscuits' fast enough, one nipped me in the butt :->) Fair warning. Enjoy!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New York City

Thank you. Some people are telling me that one day is TOO much time to spend in Nara and it can be done in a morning! I'm wondering how to divide my (very limited) time. The day before we'll spend in Kyoto and sleep there. Then take the train to Nara in the morning. In the evening we'll need to take the train from Nara (through Kyoto) back to Tokyo. Should I be planning more than Nara for that day??

I guess I will get a guidebook to help me see what I want to visit, but do you have any suggestions for how to spend our day in Nara, including that walking tour through Narapark that we'll go on? Thank you! I haven't looked up the train schedule yet to see when our train will leave Nara to get back to Tokyo, but probably no later than 7PM? (three-hour trip?) And we will of course want DINNER before we leave!

Thank you again.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Jerusalem

I stopped in the Tourist Info Office in Nara just outside of the train station. They give a great free map and explain how to do a big circle to see all of the sites. I must have spent at least 6 or 7 hours there with a coffee & cake break and I certainly didn't see everything on the map.

Take a look here for starters:

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New York City

This is wonderful. I can envision getting to Nara sometime in the morning, not too horribly early, taking the walking tour at 10-1 or so, having lunch, then hitting the other sites, dinner, and train back to Tokyo. Thank you so much.

Now I need to start another question to ask what MUST I see in Kyoto in only ONE day?

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Jerusalem

Kyoto for me is quintessential Japan. The list is difficult to figure out for 1 day only as I used local transport - local buses - and they are a bit slow to get from place to place.

I'll list, you choose :)

Former Imperial Palace: Very different styles from most simple and plain appearing to the grandiose Shogun style.

Kinkaku-ji: The Temple is 3 stories, each done in a different style. The 2 top stories are covered in gold leaf. Surrounded by a quiet lake that reflects the temple like a mirror. Very aesthetic.

Ryoanji Temple: Much less people, school groups. Still difficult to meditate in Stone garden of Temple. People speaking all languages. Would like to be alone and contemplate life, rock, mosses here... The simplicity and austerity encourage meditation.

Kyomizu-Dera Temple - Unusual in that it has both Temples and Shrines - spent 3 1/2 hours here with its supplementary buildings, gardens and temples. Nice walk up narrow cobbled lanes to get there too. Includes the Jishu Shrine dedicated to matchmaking, the 30 meter tall Ryozen Kannon and the Yasaka Shrine.

Maruyama Park - filled with local families and lovely to sit on the grass in the sun.

I also joined the 5 hour "Johnny Walker" walking tour:

Himeji Castle is another 1/2 day trip. You will probably not have time for it this visit.

For a better understanding and more enjoyability (is that a word?) I highly recommend the book:
"Exploring Kyoto"
On Foot in the Ancient Capital
by Judith Clancy

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Jerusalem


For the former Imperial Palace you have to reserve your date and hour in advance

Take a walk in Gion - In the evening if possible.

Full details of all on my Kyoto pages.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New York City

unaS, I'm so glad you brought up the Johnnie Hillwalker tour. I ran across that too. It's from 10 to 3. At first I thought it would be a good way to spend our only day in Kyoto, but now I'm thinking it doesn't cover enough sights and also maybe we don't want to spend that many hours seeing craftspeople work.

If it were you, which would you do, Johnnie Hillwalker tour + one sight or so (whatever there is time to do afterward -- temples closing at around 4PM) OR skip the Johnnie tour and just go to a selection of places as you have outlined above, ourselves? Just asking your opinion. thank you!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Jerusalem

I enjoyed the 'Johnny Hillwalker' tour very much but I don't think that I can recommend it for a 1-day only visit.

It covers a very small area - about 5, very intensely. One goes to see the detail. There are only 3 craft-shop visits, no pressure to buy but good information on how this handwork is done in Japan and on the family life and traditions of the craftsmen.

One walks up and down the narrow streets of this area to see the details of local life and architecture. One visits temples, shrines, typical Japanese garden and so on. There are excellent and humorous explanations on history, culture, local life, and so on. Full details on my Kyoto page.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New York City

UnaS, I just looked at your Kyoto page. How many days did you spend in Kyoto/Nara? Sounds as if you did very well there, saw a lot but not too much.

we're going to be spending most of one day sightseeing by ourselves, (trying to get to Sanjusanagendo (sp?), then to Nijo Castle, then to Gingka-ju (sp.?), down Philospher's Walk to I forget the name now, the Buddhist temple at the other end of the Philsopher's walk. I know that's a lot, but with decent transportation maybe we can do it.

Then the next day we'll do Johnnie Hillwalker plug Kyomizu and then Gion, then the next day in Nara.

At this point I'm thinking that we'll get into Nara early in the morning and then, if there's time later on, go to Fushimi Inari much later, and then back to Kyoto train back to Tokyo. But probably there won't be.

I'm curious as to how many days you spent, because you seemed to do things in a nice, leisurely fashion, walking around, finding places to eat, etc.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Jerusalem

Yes, I prefer leisurely visits. I tend to see a smaller number of sites, but to spend more time enjoying them, absorbing the culture and appreciating the local art. I try to travel not just to see, but to understand if possible. I do a great deal of reading on the area I will visit before I go so as to try to gain a knowledge of the people of that country.

I had 10 days in Japan (actually 8 and 2 half days) which I split basically into 5 days in Tokyo and 4 days in Kyoto but also with days trips out of each. Nara was a 1 day trip out of Kyoto, Himeji castle was a 1/2 day trip, the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple is so large and the area so interesting that it was much of a whole day in itself. I spent a couple of hours in the Ryonaji Temple trying to meditate in the Stone garden. Most people don't spend more than a 1/4 of an hour there just to see it. At Kinkaku-ji Temple I found strolling in the gardens worth the time - so quiet, serene and relaxing.

In both Kamakura and in Kyoto just walking around the back streets, the residential areas and seeing the tiny well cared for homes and gardens were very revealing of the Japanese culture as a whole.

It is a way of travelling that suits my needs. You may see it in a different way.

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