Nara (奈良市) is a city (population ~370,000) in the Kansai Region of Japan. In the 8th century it was the capital of Japan in a period known as the Nara Period. A selection of stunning temples and shrines make this a popular travel destination. It is also home to a very large population of tame deer that roam freely, particularly in Nara Park. The Daibutsuden Hall, in the Todai-ji temple is the world's largest wooden building.
The Kasuga Grand Shrine was established in 768 A.D. and is the Fujiwara family's shrine. It has been rebuilt several times over the centuries. The stone lanterns lining the path to the shrine and the bronze lanterns inside make this shrine well worth a visit.
Japan has countless traditional festivals and holidays. Then when you add the local festivals that number just grows and grows. Here is a list of the few major national traditional festivals.
Nara has a humid subtropical climate. Summers last from June to September when average daytime temperatures are between 27 and 32 °C and nights are mostly around 20 °C. Winters last from December to February when days are approximately 10 °C and nights are around or just above zero. Most of the rain falls during the warmer summermonths. Snow is possible from January to March with 3-5 centimetres a month on average.
Nara doesn't have its own airport. International flights in nearby Osaka arrive at the Kansai International Airport (KIX). Airlines flying from Europe to Osaka include KLM (Amsterdam) and Finnair (Helsinki). Osaka Airport (ITM) serves only domestic destinations.
Nara Kotsu Bus service (City Loop Route) offers a bus services every 30 minutes.
Most of Nara's sites are easily explored on foot.
|Cotton 100%||Nara-pref,Nara-city,Tkabata-cho 1122-21||Hostel||-|
|Nakata Bed & Breakfast||1-1 Teramachi||Guesthouse||-|
|Nara UGAYA Guesthouse||4-1 Okukomori-cho||Guesthouse||87|
|People's Inn Hanakomichi||23 Konishi-cho||Hotel||-|
|Tenpyo Ryokan||9 Higashimuki-Nakamachi||Guesthouse||90|
|Guesthouse Naramachi||30 Kitakyobate-cho||HOSTEL||88|
|Guesthouse Nara Komachi||41-2 Surugamachi||Hostel||95|
|Ryokan Yamabe||543 Tabe Tenri-city||Guesthouse||-|
|Yuzan Guest House||1-4-10 Omiya-cho Nara-city||HOSTEL||90|
|ML International Hostel||2-11-2 5F Shibatsuji-chou Nara city Nara||HOSTEL||88|
|Guesthouse Nara Backpackers||31 Yurugi-cho||HOSTEL||90|
|Takama Guest House||27-1, Nashihara-cho, Nara City||HOSTEL||-|
|Guesthouse Iki||1-5,Kamisanjou-cho, Nara-shi||HOSTEL||88|
Manga cafes are dotted along the streets of almost every city in Japan. For a very reasonable price (about ¥100 per 15 minutes), you receive a private cubicle with a PC with internet access at blistering Japanese internet speeds. The chairs are incredibly comfortable (making them an excellent place to sleep for the cash-deprived), and you can even order snacks and drinks from the staff.
A number of business hotels have Internet access available if you have your own device, sometimes for free. It is also possible to find Wi-Fi "hot spots" around many large cities in Japan, especially near tech-related businesses and large corporate buildings with unsecured wireless networks. 3G Wireless Data and Pocket Wifi are other options.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Payphones (公衆電話 kōshū denwa) are easily found, particularly near train stations, although with the popularity of mobile phones, public pay phones are not quite as numerous as they once were. Gray and green pay phones accept ¥10 and ¥100 coins and prepaid cards. Be aware that not all places with public telephones have phones that accept coins, so it may be worthwhile to buy a phone card for emergency use. Some of the gray phones, as indicated on the display, can make international calls. Pre-paid cards can be purchased at convenience stores, train station kiosk stores and sometimes in vending machines next to the phone.
Modern Japanese mobile phones (携帯電話 keitai denwa or just keitai) tend to operate on unique cellular standards not always compatible with the rest of the world. 3G phones using the UMTS/WCDMA2100 standard and equipped with a 3G SIM card will most likely work. If your phone is up to spec, double-check with your carrier if they have a roaming agreement with either SoftBank or NTT DoCoMo. Coverage is generally excellent, unless you are heading to some remote mountainous areas. If you have no 3G phone but still have a 3G-compatible SIM card, you can rent a 3G phone in Japan and slot in your card, allowing you to keep your home phone number in Japan. For a longer trip, you can also purchase a phone, but doing this legally requires an Alien Registration Card (or an obliging Japanese friend willing to front for you).
The easier way is to get a prepaid phone. Prepaid phones are sold in most SoftBank and AU stores. If you already have a 3G phone, go with Softbank as it can sell SIMs as opposed to au whose prepaid service is phone-based like most CDMA carriers. Prepaid phones use a "card" with a pass key to "charge" a phone with minutes. These prepaid calling cards, unlike the phone itself, can be found in most convenience stores. A prepaid cell phone is available for as little as ¥5000 plus ¥3000 for a 60-90 day call time package, which will get drained at a rate of ¥100 per minute (¥10 per 6 seconds for AU's prepaid service). Both SoftBank and AU offer prepaid phones.
The Japanese postal service is excellent! Domestic and international mail service is very quick and reliable. The prices for sending letters, postcards and parcels vary depending on where you send if from and to which country you send it too, and of course depends on weight as well, so check this calculation page of Japan Post for more details. Post offices generally are open from 9:00am to 5:00pm on weekdays, closing at weekends and also on national holidays, though a few open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Central post offices are sometimes open until 7:00pm, open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm and on Sundays and holidays from 9:00am to 12:30pm. There are post offices in every major city and minor town. Another thing to remember is that the post office is one of the few places in Japan that is guaranteed to have ATMs that take international cards.
For more information, check the English website about Nara.
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