10 THINGS TO EXPLORE IN NARA & UJI 2020.08.12
Is it really as nice as everyone told you?
Yes, It is. Just continue to read the post and you'll see what you can do in Nara & Uji.
Nara was the first permanent capital and is still having lots of historic treasures. Oldest and largest temples included. And of course the fact that it is the city of deer.
Originally the city was named Heijo while its establishing in the year 710, and changed it later on to Nara. The city has developed from a commercial town during the Edo and Meiji periods to a cultural modern tourist city, due to its large numbers of historical temples, astonishing landmarks and national monuments that are included, like a lot of others, as UNESCO and World Heritage Site.
Uji on the other side is just a few minutes away from Nara by train and is one of the two well-known cities in Japan that produce the original blend of the finest green tea and matcha.
It is actually the second largest city of Kyoto prefecture and the famous Byodoin Temple is featured at the 10 yen coin.
A lot of people, specially tourists don't really know about the city, even though it is the host of yet, another UNESCO and World Heritage Site. Uji is surrounded by lush, green, forested hills and the Uji River passing through the city makes it an even more beautiful place to visit. In spring time the rivers sides are full of blooming cherry tress which is a hot spot for couples and people that enjoy in general Sakura Matsuri.
10 THINGS YOU CAN DO WHILE EXPLORING NARA & UJI
1# BYODOIN TEMPLE
The first place to see of Uji has to be the Byodoin Temple. Originally the Buddhist temple was built over one thousand years ago, 998. All year around it is a stunning place, surrounded by a pond and with extremely distinct architectural touches makes it so beautiful and unique. You can walk around the temple area, have a picnic, feed the koi carps and just having a nice day with your friends.
The temple grounds are open from 9 am to 5 pm and it'll cost around 500 yen. Often they use the entry fee to keep the area clean and to renovate the shrines and temples.
In case you would like to explore the inside of the temple you have to join a tour guide up to the street of Byodoin Ometesando which is showing off its rich histroy of green tea and local stores selling arts and crafts.
The temple and the park can be seen in a video.
Link will be on the bottom of the post.
2# KOSHOJI TEMPLE
In case you like to escape the crowds and the busy city you should visit the Koshoji Temple which is showing its full beauty specially in autumn. Red leafs are surrounding the shape of the temple and are glowing in the light of the sunset.
Since the temple is still in use, visitors can see worshippers and priests practising the zen chanting, also praying and other frequent ceremonies that are important to hold.
3# UJI WALKING PATHS
Ajirogi-no-michi and Sawarabi-no-michi are two of the walking pathways which are somewhat relaxing and show another nice area of the city.
The path of Ajirogi-no-michi runs next to the south side of the Uji river. Water is already really nice to look at and to hear. Specially in summer it is refreshing when you take a walk next to a river, lake or ocean, because it is always a bit cooler than city sightseeing. The is coming from an old fishing technique that was used by local fishermen in that area.
While getting lost and your feet are just continuing to bring you further and further, you'll see a large pond that reflects the beauty of the Byodo-in Temple that you usually can see through tiny gaps in a hedge or bushes.
No matter where you go, you will find beautiful and relaxing places to take a break and be one with nature, the same as Japanese did for centuries. You only have to follow the timeless scenery until you pass a bridge. Cross two of them to get to the other side of a small Island and you'll come across the river again.
Suddenly you'll find yourself taking the path of the Swarabi-no-michi.
The air is fresh and everything is covered by large trees. The further you walk the clother you get to the hills, which is showing you the northern edge of the Uji River. Depending on the season you find yourself in the middle of lush green bushes and very colourful flowers.
Nearby are the Ujigami Shrine, the monument of Genji Monogatari, which is yet another UNESCO and World Heritage Site, and the Tale of the Genji Museum.
4# THE AGATA FESTIVAL
The festival begins in the evening of June the 5th at the Agata Shrine. It'll last until the next morning and a lot of people participate in the ritual.
A mikoshi, portable shrine, will be carried out of the Agata Shrine and around the town. Everyone who is a participating in the parade is holding a bonten, a long piece of wood with a lot of white pieces of paper that are attached to it.
In case one catches a piece that has fallen of the bonten, while a ritual is held - called bonten-wawashi, is a lucky person. It turns into a powerful charm that drive away evil. And let's be honest, everyone would love to have one of those!
The Agate Shrine is close to the JR and Keihan Uji station.
5# DAIBUTSUDEN - BIG BUDDHA HALL
The size of the Buddha and the hall can be seen in the video and would recommend taking a look, just to get the feeling of how big it really is.
For the history nerds, the great bronze Buddha, yes it is entirely out of bronze, nearly bankrupted Japan in 751, and not only that, the wooden building in which he is sitting was once the biggest of the world. In 1998, it was surpassed by a Japanese stadium.
There are still a lot of ancient treasures that are almost 1500 years old.
Many times during history both, the big Buddha and the building have been repaired. Due to fires, earthquakes and basically time itself are continuously causing damage. That's why it's no wonder why there are always constructions seen all year around.
Just to give you some measurements of the Buddha to clarify, yes it is a big boy.
He weights kind of 500 tonnes and is a tower of 49 feet/ 15 m tall, with a 17.5 foot/ 7 m long face. And to mentioned his hair. It is made out of 966 individual bronze balls that occupied almost all the bronze production in the early 700s.
6# NARA PARK
Due to his size of 660 hectares, multiple famous temples, traditional tea houses, kiosks with refreshments, forests, roaming deer and hosting a lot of World Heritage Treasures it is totally worth to explore it for a day.
The Todaiji Temple which is hosting the 15 m tall Bronze Buddha is part of it as well. Pass through Nandaimon Gate, that is close to the Todaiji, to take a closer look at its two 8 meter tall guardian figures. But take care, the steps are pretty big and I almost fell.
Just behind it is the Nigatsudo that has many lovely views of the city. Other things can be explored as well.
Yes, you can feed and pet the deer. They nearly live there as long as the people of Nara and always have been a part of the environment. Some of them are well-trained and even take a look to the left and right before crossing the road. Or they wait until the traffic light turned green.
Just get a bag of deer cookies for 150 yen and you will be surrounded by deer within a few seconds. They know what's good, and I know that those cookies don't taste that bad. Basically like a waffle without sugar.
In case of taking a break from sightseeing, walk one of the trails through Mt. Kasuga. The primeval Forest, which is a sacred ground was awarded to be a World Heritage Site. You are a bit lazy to walk up to the peak? Just take a bus. But for real, you should walk, because it is good for your body and the environment. Global Wamring, right?!
7# KASUGA-TAISHA SHRINE
You'll find that shrine near or in the deer park as well. Everything is so close, isn't it?
Kasuga-Taisha was established in 768 and over the centuires it was rebuilt several times.
The interior is having a lot of bronze lanterns inside that are very famous and is a nice decoration. From the outside you will see a lot of stone lanterns, almost 3000, that are leading up the way to the shrine. The Man'yo Garden or also called Kasuga-Taisha Garden which is located right next to the shrine can be visited as well and is another amazing spot to relax a bit before heading of to the next stop.
8# HORYU-JI - TEMPLE OF THE FLOURISHING LAW
Has been once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, Japan. Furthermore, the temple's pagoda is widely acknowledged to be the oldest wooden building existing in the entire world. Crazy. And it still exists, because so many people take good care of it.
Much of the art, such as frescoes, statues and other artifacts, the same as the building itself has a strong cultural influence from China, India and Korea. It is considered to be a time capsule of the Buddhit art which is dated back to the sixth and seventh century.
9# ISUI-EN GARDEN
A Japanese garden that is actually divided into two sections, each having a pagoda, but originally have been two gardens that sort of turned into one. While being there you are about to see two islands with sculptures of a crane and tortioise. These animals represent longevity in the Japanese culture and are highly respected. Next to that there is a pond in the shape of the kanji for water, mizu 水.
Size of the gardens are roughly 13,500 m² that are 145,000 square feet. That means, a lot of space to get lost and to enjoy nature in its full colours.
10# FESTIVALS IN NARA
Yamayaki - Festival of the burning grass
Yes, burning grass festival and the next is held on 25th of January 2020. Get ready for your trip to Nara! Don't worry in case you are about to miss it, because that festival happens every year at the fourth Saturday of the January. That means lots of time to plan a trip and join the community. Temples such as the Todaiji, Temple, Kasuga Temple and Kofukuji Temple are all involved with the ceremonies of the festival.
The Wakakusa Yamayaki has been taking place for hundreds of years and its precise origins are unclear
The reason why they burn grass every single year, for actually hundreds of years is unclear. There are different stories why, but no one really knows. In any case it is beautiful to look at.
Mantoro - Lantern Festival
Every single year at the third of February, all of the 3000 stone lanterns are lit and burn in warm colours of the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. It is a warm and comforting feeling being there, but yet, a rare opportunity to see one of Nara's most sacred shrines the way it must have looked like over 1000 years ago. People all over Japan came and still come here to celebrate their dreams to become true, because that shrine is associated with the making and granting of wishes, of those who deeply believe in it.
That's all for today.
Let me know when you are about to go there and send me funny pictures of you and the deer.
HERE IS THE LINK OF A VIDEO THAT I MADE OF NARA & UJI!
Besides, I have a YouTube Channel which is currently all about me living in Japan. Weekly Vlogs and "How does it work? Living in Japan"
Would love it to see you there as well. ;)
My YouTube Channel Right here!
Mata Ne! ♥
I am Sina Sofie and love writing.
A while ago I built my own website which is all about travelling to different countries, how to do it, where to go, tips and tricks, what's important of planing your next trip and in general a lot about Japan.
Next to it, I enjoy writing and taking videos of my life as foreigner in the land of the rising sun to inspire others to come to visit this beautiful country.
I am originally coming from Germany, but lived for a couple of years in Ireland, before I decided to hop on the next plane to begin a new adventure.
Speaking and writing in English feels just as natural as German and I can't wait to know enough Japanese to talk to you.