Nara is the capital of the prefecture of the same name, located in the Kansai region, not far from Kyoto and Osaka. In the 8th century, it was for 70 years the first permanent capital of Japan, under its former name of Heijo-kyo. The city is particularly renowned for its historical heritage.
Nara is easily accessible from Kyoto, with about 1 train every 45 minutes. The journey takes about 1 hour, and less if you take an express train. The road from Kyoto to Nara is very interesting, and it is advisable to stop, especially in Uji, famous for its green tea production.
Nara is a major tourist destination in Japan. The historic monuments of the ancient city of Nara are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Among the buildings not to be missed during a visit to Nara are the reconstruction of the former Imperial Palace Heijo, or Japan’s second oldest Western-style hotel, the Nara Hotel, which was built in 1909. This hotel, built entirely of wood, is also the residence of members of the imperial family when they visit the city.
Nara is also famous and appreciated for its thousands of deer and shika deer, which live in total freedom in the city and especially in the huge Nara Park (Nara Koen). Used for several centuries to a fearless cohabitation with man, these deer were historically considered as messengers of the deities and were even designated “natural treasure” in 1957!
Japanese gardens are also not to be outdone, with the Isuien and Yoshikien gardens, separated from each other by a simple river, and decorated with tea houses.
On the museum side, the National Museum of Nara is a must. There are permanent collections of ancient art, porcelain and theatre masks, as well as temporary exhibitions dedicated to traditional Japanese ceremonies.
For the anecdote, there was the “Nara Dreamland”, an old amusement park on the outskirts of the city that remained abandoned for a long time and attracted photographers from all over the world for its post-apocalyptic setting, who often took risks to obtain the best shot of the place. But the site has since been razed to the ground.