Japan Take Two: Nara and Fushimi Inari Shrine

by - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

First thing Wednesday morning we caught the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, where we'd be spending the next three nights.

After getting a bit turned about in the massive train station, we found our hotel, dropped our bags and hopped on another train to take us to Nara for the day.

Nara is a bit south of Kyoto and is home to Todaiji Temple -- the largest wooden building in Japan, which houses one of Japan's biggest buddhas.

Nara is also famous for its park full of friendly deer that love being fed by tourists.

Attempting to pet one of the Nara deer

When we got to one of the first temples near the entrance of the park, we immediately saw deer walking up to tourists looking for food and tourists trying to make friends with the deer.

I obviously found the deer more exciting than the temple and attempted to get some pictures with them. That endeavor was only moderately successful as you can see the in the pictures below. The deer just didn't want to look at the camera. :)

Nara's very friendly deer

Making a deer friend in Nara

Nara deer

Since Nara is known mainly for the deer and the giant buddha, a lot of tourists just come for those things. But one of the many travel guides I read before this trip had a cool walking tour of the park outlined, so we decided to follow that and get more of a taste for what there was to see.

Our first stop was Yoshiki-en. This garden -- which had free admission for international visitors (yay!) -- was really pretty. Even though there wasn't a ton of stuff in full bloom, I loved seeing the teahouse overlooking the water.

Teahouse in Yoshiki-en in Nara

And we got to see a few early daffodils.

Flowers in Yoshiki-en

We decided to hit up the Todaiji Temple next.

The building that housed the Great Budda was insanely huge.

Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara

And then when we actually got to see the statue of the buddha itself we were both pretty stunned by just how massive it was.

Close up of the buddha

I'm not sure the pictures here can really do it justice.

Closer shot of largest buddha in Japan

This was by far our favorite thing that we saw on this day, and it's definitely one of the best parts of the entire trip.

The buddha wasn't the only massive statue in the temple. There were also some boddhivastas and scary looking guard statues.

Another massive shrine in Tōdai-ji Temple

Guard in Tōdai-ji Temple

Our walk through the park took us away from a lot of crowds after this point, which was kind of nice. We walked up this long hill that was just lined with deer lounging around, so we decided to stop at one of the shops and pick up some deer food.

Oh man did that start a feeding frenzy. All those lazy, lounging deer perked up and came right over to try to get some food.

Greedy deer

I was taking pictures of them and holding my food behind my back, when all of a sudden one deer snuck up behind me and yanked a bunch of the food out of my hands! He was bold!

Trying to steal food out of my hands

Feeding even more deer in Nara

The deer chomped through our food pretty quickly and not long after we were back on our walk enjoying exploring.

Our last stop in Nara was Kasuga Taisha Shrine. By the time we got to this shrine, we were a little drained. It had been a long day and we debated not going inside. But it was a UNESCO World Heritage site, and we were right there so we felt like we probably should.

And I'm really glad we did.

Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara

This shrine is lined with thousands of lanterns of all different shapes and sizes. There are festivals during the year when they are all lit up, though we weren't there to witness one.

Some of the hundreds of lanterns in Kasuga Taisha

Plus all the paths in the woods leading up to the shrine are lined with lanterns too. It created a very cool atmosphere.

Lanterns lining the walkways

The walk from this temple back to town took a while, but it was a nice casual stroll and we were both glad to stuff our faces with a massive (and very late) lunch before getting on the train back to Kyoto.

Before heading to our hotel, we decided to make one last stop of the day in Kyoto at Fushimi Inari Shrine best known for its "infinite" torii gates. I'd heard this shrine gets packed, so that the best times to visit are early morning or in the evening.

Since it was already the evening we figured it was the perfect time to stop.

In front of shrine 2

Unfortunately we arrived at the same time as a massive tour group that clearly had the same idea. Things were a little tight on the paths through the torii gates until we got past the first rest point and made our way further the up the mountain.

Torii gates lining the hiking path Fushimi Inari-taisha

Low ceiling

Since we were tired and losing daylight, we decided to not attempt hiking all the way to the top of the mountain. Instead, we made it our goal to make it to one of the main lookout points.

Never-ending torii gates

The crowds along the paths had thinned considerably by that point and we had pretty easy time the rest of the walk up. It was cool walking through all the torii gates.

Walking under the torii gates video

Some were massive, some were small. You could tell that some where in much better condition than others.

The back of the torii gates

When we made it to the look out point, the views at dusk where rather lovely.

View from lookout point at Fushimi Inari-taisha

After such a full day of travel and walking around, it was kind of nice to get back to our hotel and collapse into bed.

Unfortunately that collapse happened around 7 p.m., which means we slept through dinner and straight through til the morning. The jet lag had caught up to us for real.

Fitbit stats:
26,894 steps
11.38 miles

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  1. Great pics! We loved visiting Nara and the priceless deer! Looks like you guys had a fun time! 🦌