Family Travel Japan: Nara and the Great Buddha
Nara was added to my Japan To-Do list pretty early on as I felt it was an easy combo of culture, religion and cool stuff for the boys, ie lots of roaming deer lol. Oh and this place is ancient!
The boys and I were on our own (which is always slightly terrifying for me at the moment because…..Nixon!). Dave was working so we packed up and headed south on the train. One little local line (¥150 ea) and then we were free-riding on the JR trains with our passes. Ethan and I make a good team whilst navigating train stations so we managed to complete the 3 transfer trip with no problems.
You don’t have to walk far from the station to experience the cuteness, and often aggressiveness of the Nara Park deer, 50m from the train station they are out of the pavement, harassing punters for deer crackers! In the Shinto religion, deer are considered messengers of the gods and there’s over 1000 of them roaming the giant park. Purchase the little crackers from the vendors with green umbrellas for ¥150, break them in half and have fun.
After Fun with Deer, we wandered for a bit as there was a small lake nearby and my fish-mad boys needed to see if there were fish to peruse.
Nara Park is so, so big guys. I was super stoked we had the stroller as the walk from the station to Todai-ji, the Buddhist temple housing the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Daibutso was quite a hike. But, on the way, we (accidentally) found the Yoshikien Garden. A beautiful moss garden divided into 3 separate areas. With free entry for foreigners we were in like flynn and the boys really, really enjoyed exploring this deserted but stunning corner of the park.
Nix didn’t want to leave but I eventually coaxed him out of the garden and we headed to our final destination within the park, Todai-ji, which was, until 1998, the worlds largest wooden building. The scale of this complex is so huge it boggled our minds. Watching the boys soak up the history and craftsmanship in world heritage sites such as this is what our trip was all about for me. Hopefully, they remember how these sights made them feel about their place in the world – I’m probably reaching here a bit with Nixon I realise lol. The Daibutsu statue, the flanking Bodhisattvas and the two wooden guardians protecting him are so beautiful you simply won’t want or be able to rush through the building.
Entry was around ¥600 each for Ethan and I, approx $7.50NZD and totally worth every cent.
Like other large stations in Japan, there are some great shopping and restaurants to experience in Nara before you board your train. Though on this day, Nix was so beat, we sat down in McDonald’s for the ONLY western takeaway meal we would eat for the entire two weeks! That’s not a bad track record, plus, I really wanted to eat an egg burger lol.
You could definitely spend a whole day exploring Nara Park and see so much more than we did, my boys can’t be pushed for speed when they are doing lots of walking – and neither should they when it’s of the sightseeing variety.
Don’t miss Nara, it’s fun, low key, relaxed (providing there’s no festival on at the temples) and you can explore at your own pace.