Japans first permanent capital was established in the year 710 at Heijo, the city now known as Nara. As the influence and political ambitions of the city's powerful Buddhist monasteries grew to become a serious threat to the government, the capital was moved to Nagaoka (Kyoto) in 784.
Nara is located less than one hour from Kyoto and Osaka. Due to its past as the first permanent capital, it remains full of historic treasures, including some of Japan’s oldest and largest temples and Buddhist Statues. The Deer park in Nara is also very popular with adults and children alike.
Many Overseas Visitor's spend half a day in Nara and then return to either Kyoto or Osaka. With half a day, you will generally be able to see the World Heritage Sites of Todaiji Temple which is the largest Wooden Structure in Japan, and houses the largest Buddha Statue (Daibutsu OR Great Buddha) of Japan which stands at 15 meters tall. You can then walk through Nara Park to Kasuga Taisha Shrine to see all the lanterns. Finally, a visit to the Kohfukuji Temple will allow you to enter the Japanese National Treasure Hall to see some impressive Buddha Statues.
However, Nara gives any visitor a nice chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of other cities if you decide to stay over night. By staying a night at Nara, will let you explore Nara City in more depth.
Located approx.30 minutes from Nara Station is the very important Horyuji Temple, which was believed to be built by Shotoku Taishi in 607. It is the oldest wooden building in Japan, and has over 55 architectual National Treasures.
Not only the central area of Nara, but if you want to be a little more adventurous, you can head further inland and reach the very rural but relaxing Yoshino area of Nara. This is a great area to come, especially if you are wanting to get away from the crowds and into nature. A popular area for the Sakura Cherry Blossom trees, but in other months you can relax with maybe not seeing any other Overseas Visitor.
There are also some great hiking and nature walks close to central Nara as well as in the Yoshino area.
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