Nara

Travel Guide Asia Japan Honshu Kansai Nara

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Introduction

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.

Along with the development of Heijōkyō (平城京), the capital of Japan between 710-784 AD, Nara flourished under the influence of Buddhism, leading to the creation of an enormous number of cultural assets, buildings and books, many of which are preserved today. Nara has the most buildings designated National Treasures in Japan.

While the Heijōkyō Palace (平城宮) site turned into plain fields after the capital was moved to Kyoto, the shrines and temples were left on the east side of the palace (called Gekyo (外京)), and Buddhism remained influential throughout the following centuries. Another part of the area developed as a merchant town, notably in the Edo period, known as Naramachi (奈良町) today.

Eight places in the old capital Nara have been inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara" since 1998, including five Buddhist temples, one Shinto shrine, an imperial palace and a primeval forest.

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Sights and Activities

Most of Nara's sights, including temples, shrines and famously mercenary deer, are concentrated in Nara Park (奈良公園 Nara-kōen), a wide, pleasant space of greenery. According to legend, the god of the Kasuga Taisha came riding a white deer in the old days, so the deer enjoy protected status as envoys of the god; however, based on their current behavior, either the deer have lost the job, or the god has taken an extremely passionate interest in biscuits from tourists (¥150), empty food wrappers and harassing shopkeepers.

Buddhist Temples

  • Tōdai-ji, including Nigatsu-dō - Nov-Mar 08:00-17:00, Apr-Oct 07:30-17:30; museum opens at 09:30. Home to the famous Great Buddha (Daibutsu, 大仏), the largest Buddha statue in Japan and one of the largest in the world. The Daibutsu-den, which houses it, is said to be the largest wooden building in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The giant front gate, Nandai-mon, is guarded by two fierce, awe-inspiring protectors. It's also swarmed by deer, who know this is the best place to come looking for a hand-out. Through the gate is a stone path leading to the outer walls surrounding the Daibutsu-den. Follow the signs to the left to enter the inner courtyard, and if you happen to have a stick of incense with you, join the crowd around the incense offerings before you head onward. The Daibutsu-den contains four other giant statues. Once you've taken in the Daibutsu itself, walk around it to the left to see the other statues, as well as a few old tiles and leftover relics. There's a stand inviting you to sponsor a tile in order to help with the upkeep of the temple, and English-language fortune scrolls (omikuji) are on sale year-round. Take a final look at the Daibutsu as you leave; don't let the souvenir stand be your last memory of this incredible sight. Just before the souvenir area, behind and to the right of the Daibutsu, is a wooden column with a small hole carved through the bottom. Enlightenment is reportedly promised to anyone who can squeeze through this hole. In practice, this means a lot of kids have enlightenment in store (thanks in part to other kids who kick their feet to "help" them through), and all but the skinniest adults can only look on in envy. To the right of the entrance to the Daibutsu-den is a statue of the Yakushi Nyorai. Though a bit scary-looking on first glance, it's actually a Buddha of medicine and healing. Touching a part of the Yakushi Nyorai and then the corresponding part of your own body is said to heal any ailments you have there. ¥600; ¥1000 to see the museum as well.
  • Saidai-ji
  • Kōfuku-ji - ☏ +81 742 22-7755. 09:00-17:00. This temple has a three-story and a five-story pagoda; historically, the latter has contended with Kyoto's Toji for the title of Tallest Pagoda in Japan, although Kofuku-ji seems to have surrendered for now. Eastern Golden Hall ¥500.
  • Gangō-ji - Gangō-ji (元興寺), 11 Chuin-chō (In Nara-machi, near Kofuku-ji), ☏ +81 74 223-1377. 09:00-17:00. It was considered to be one of the seven most important temples in Nara when Nara was the nation's capital. The original temple burned down in the 18th century, but the architectural style remains true to the original, with its unique Korean-style roof. The mandala within the temple is one of the most famous in the nation. Around the outside of the temple there are many Buddhist statues, but perhaps more interesting are the various demon statues scattered about among them. While the Buddhist statues are quite typical and obviously religious, the demon statues are comical and seem out-of-place. Some even appear sacrilegious, with a demon doing Zen meditation among the Buddhist statues and another in a rather erotic centerfold-like pose. There is a story that supposedly associates the demons with the temple. For visitors, it is fun to try to spot them all. ¥400.
  • Yakushi-ji (薬師寺), 457 Nishinokyo-chō (a short walk from Nishinokyo Station and Toshodai-ji), ☏ +81 74 233-6001. 08:30-17:00. Although most of the temple was reconstructed in the 1970s after a fire, Yakushi-ji is still worth the visit. The Buddhist Yakushi trinity housed in the hondo is a great work, and the two pagodas on each side of the temple make it a unique and recognizable complex. The east pagoda has survived and dates back to 730 AD. Like Gango-ji, Yakushi-ji was one of the seven top temples in the city during the Nara Period. ¥800.
  • Tōshōdai-ji (唐招提寺), 13-46 Gojo-chō, (a short walk from Nishinokyo Station and Yakushi-ji), ☏ +81 74 233-7900. 08:30-17:00. A temple that was important in helping to spread Buddhist teachings in Japan, Toshodai-ji is where the great Chinese priest Ganjin preached. His grave is within the precincts of the temple. ¥600, ¥700 with treasure house.

Kasuga-taisha

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.

Heijō Palace

Heijō Palace was the Imperial Palace of Japan, during most of the Nara period. Its remains are part of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara" UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Kasugayama Primeval Forest
  • Naramachi
  • Nara National Museum (奈良国立博物館), 50 Noborioji-cho, ☏ +81 742 22-7771. 09:30-17:00. This museum has one of the world's best collections of Buddhist art and changing exhibitions. The National Treasure Hall has an impressive collection of statues. There are "English Guides" inside the museum however, they do not guide you through the museum; instead they are there to answer questions. The guides are highly knowledgeable, so if you can think of questions that require explanation, you can learn a lot more about the exhibits, Buddhism, and Buddhist art. Each year for about 2 weeks in late October - early November (dates vary) the museum hosts on a rotating basis a part of the collection of Shōsōin, the Tōdai-ji treasury (which is closed to the public). Expect enormous queues, as this is a notable event in the cultural calendar of the country, and tourists from all over Japan converge on Nara at this time. ¥500; special exhibitions up to ¥2000.
  • Isuien Garden
  • Sarusawa Pond (猿沢の池), 登大路町49. This small pond at the east end of Sanjō-dōri with Nara Park behind or Naramachi to its south is a very popular viewing spot for Kōfukuji.
  • Wakakusa-yama
  • Yagyū
  • Nara Century Hall (なら100年会館), 7-1 Sanjo Miyamae-machi (next to JR Nara station), ☏ +81 74 234-0100. Hosts a variety of events, concerts, and musicals. Sometimes a flea market is held in front of the hall.
  • Japanese Tattoo Art Gallery, Higashimuki Shopping Street. Th-Tu 12:00–22:00. A little gallery with photos of traditional Japanese tattoos, run by a tattoo artist who will talk to visitors about the difficult social and legal status of tattoos in modern Japan.
  • Heijōkyū Palace Site (平城宮跡), 2-9-1 Nijo-chō, ☏ +81 74 230-6752. The Suzaku Gate (朱雀門) is a replica, along with the newly built Daigoku-den (大極殿). In the center of this large expanse of land you'll find the best preserved excavation area, with some foundation structures on the site. On the rest of the grounds, you can still see where structures once stood by looking at the elevated and sunken areas. On opposite ends of the site there are museums where you can learn about the history of the palace, see artifacts recovered from the excavation, and learn about the excavation process.
  • Nara City Museum of Photography (奈良市写真美術館), 600-1 Takabatake-chō (near Shin-Yakushi-ji, a couple blocks outside Nara Park), ☏ +81 742 22-9811. 09:30-17:00. The steel-and-glass building sits as if reflected upon the linear pond that surrounds it. Inside, there are reasonably interesting exhibits of photography on local subjects like the Mount Wakakusa Fire Festival (see below). ¥300.

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Events and Festivals

Traditional Festivals

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.

  • Japanese New Year (January 1) - the most important holiday in Japan. Although there are lots of customs and traditions most of them are done in the private. This is mainly a family holiday and Japan can feel very empty as almost everyone goes home. Travelling in Japan in during this time is difficult because everything is shut down.
  • Seijin No Hi (2nd Monday of January) - the coming of age holiday for Japanese women which 20. Traditionally families will buy any young woman how turned 20 in the last year a kimono. On this day almost all Japanese women will ear a kimono.
  • Hin Festival (March 3) - Also known as doll festival the Hin Matsuri festival is meant for young women. In early february families with daughters put dolls in order to make the women happy and healthy later in life. On Girls Day, on March 3, the dolls are put away until next year.
  • Shichi Go San Festival (Novermber 5) - Boys who are 3 and 5, and girls 3 and 7 are taken to a shinto shrine in traditional Japanese dress. The children are brought there to pray for good luck, good health and wealth.

National Holidays

  • Golden Week - Is quite often referred to as the "Japanese Spring Break." It is a combination of many state holidays, including Showa Day, Greenery Day, Children's Day, and Constitution Memorial Day in order to give a full week off. It takes place during the first full week of May. Everyone gets this week off in Japan so it is very bad time to travel because everything is crowded, expensive and most hotels will be full. There is also a major festival in the southern city of Fukuoka this week, it is called Hakata Dontaku.

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Weather

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.

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Getting There

By Plane

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.

From Kansai Airport, Airport Limousine buses run to the two Nara train stations every hour (¥2000, 1 1/2 hours). More frequent service is available by rail: If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can take the Haruka limited express to Tennoji station and then transfer to the Yamatoji line for the run to Nara (¥2900, no charge with rail pass). Otherwise, it's cheaper to take the Nankai Railway's Kūkō-Kyūkō (空港急行) express train to Shin-Imamiya, and then take the JR Yamatoji line from there (¥1430). With good connections, both trips take around 1 1/4 hours and 1 1/2 hours, respectively.

Limousine buses connect Itami Airport to the two Nara train stations for ¥1440; the ride takes about one hour.

By Train

From Kyoto Station, both the JR Nara Line and the private Kintetsu Kyoto Line will get you to Nara quickly. The Kintetsu Nara Station is better located than the JR Nara Station, and all-reserved Tokkyū (特急) trains leave Kyoto twice an hour, making the run to Nara in 35 minutes. On slower but more-frequent Kyūkō (急行) services, the trip takes about 50 minutes and you may need to change trains at Yamato-Saidaiji Station. The trip costs ¥620, plus ¥500 extra on the Tokkyū. For Japan Rail Pass holders, JR's Miyakoji Kaisoku (みやこ路快速) runs during mid-day hours from Kyoto to Nara in 45 minutes (¥690, no charge with rail pass).

A select number of Kyoto subway trains on the Karasuma line (running north-south) run directly to Kintetsu Nara, offering convenient one-seat rides for those coming from the northern part of Kyoto city. These trains are designated as express trains to Nara - running local through the subway, then continuing to Nara as an express service. For example, a one-seat journey to Nara from Kyoto's Shijō subway station (connection with the Hankyu Railway) costs ¥860 and takes one hour.

The fastest route from Osaka is to take the private Kintetsu Nara Line from Namba Station. Kaisoku-Kyūkō (快速急行) trains run three times per hour to Kintetsu Nara (40 minutes, ¥540). For Japan Rail Pass holders, JR runs up to three Yamatoji Kaisoku (大和路快速) trains each hour from Osaka, Tennōji, and intermediate stations on the Osaka Loop Line. The run to Nara is 45 minutes from Osaka Station and 30 minutes from Tennōji (¥780 and ¥450 respectively, no charge with rail pass).

Hanshin offers services from Kobe's Sannomiya Station to Kintetsu Nara via the Hanshin Namba line for ¥940. Direct Kaisoku-Kyūkō services leave three times per hour during most of the day; otherwise, you change trains at Amagasaki. The trip takes about 90 minutes.

If traveling between Kyoto, Nara and Osaka consider purchasing the Kansai thru-pass which enables unlimited travel for 2 or 3 days on private railways, buses and subways (not-JR) in the Kansai area.

By Bus

As Nara is a major tourist attraction, there are a good number of buses that run between Nara and other locations throughout Japan, which can result in significant savings when compared to train fares.

A major operator of the bus routes from the Tokyo area is JR Bus (Japanese website). Seat reservations for JR Buses can be made in train stations at the same "Midori-no-Madoguchi" ticket windows used to reserve seats on trains. JR Buses depart from Tokyo Station - Yaesu Exit (八重洲口) and the JR Highway Bus Terminal (JR高速バスターミナル) located adjacent to Yoyogi Station on the Yamanote Line (one stop south of Shinjuku). In Nara, buses stop at the JR Nara train station.

JR Bus offers, in order of comfort and price, Seishun (youth) buses with 2x2 seating configurations, Standard buses with individual seats arranged 1x1x1, and Premium Buses that offer wider seats and more amenities.

JR Bus' overnight one-way fares to/from Tokyo start from approximately ¥3,500 for overnight trips in Seishun buses up to ¥7,400 for premium buses with advanced purchase. Daytime buses to Kyoto start from ¥4,200, from which Nara can easily be reached by train. Fares are typically higher on weekends and holidays.

Discount bus operator Willer Express does not operate any direct bus services into Nara. The nearest Willer Express stop is in Kyoto, from which you can easily reach Nara by train. The advantage to using Willer is that journeys can be booked online in English, and their Japan Bus Pass is valid on all of their routes with some exceptions.

A few bus operators run direct service between Tokyo and Nara, stopping at both Kintetsu Nara and JR Nara train stations, without going through Kyoto:

  • Keisei Bus: Runs from Tokyo Disneyland (¥9480 one-way), Tokyo Sky Tree (¥8,400), Keisei Ueno station in Ueno, Tokyo (¥8,400), and the Yokohama City Air Terminal adjacent to Yokohama station (¥7,800).
  • Nara Kotsu/Kanto Bus: Runs from Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal and the Shinjuku Keio Plaza Hotel. ¥8,400 one-way; trip discounts are sometimes available.

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Getting Around

By Car

Taxis are available at Nara but those who do not know Japanese may find it difficult to make the Taxi-driver understand where they want to go.

By Public Transport

Nara Kotsu Bus service (City Loop Route) offers a bus services every 30 minutes. Adults ¥180, children 12 and under ¥90.

Several temples are on the outskirts of town. Tōshōdai-ji, Yakushi-ji, and Horyu-ji are accessible from JR and Kintetsu Nara train stations without change by Nara-Nishinokyo-Ikaruga Excursion Bus line (Line No. 97).

By Foot

Most of Nara's sites are easily explored on foot. Once within Nara Park, you can walk to almost all the other major sites. The conventional round course (from Kintetsu Nara Station to Kōfuku-ji, Nara National Museum, Tōdai-ji, Kasuga Taisha and back to Kintetsu Nara Station) is about 6km long, a pleasant walk for the typical tourist.

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Eat

A local specialty is kaki-no-hazushi (柿の葉ずし), which is sushi (usually mackerel or salmon) wrapped in persimmon leaves, and actually originates from nearby Yoshino. Kudzu, also from Yoshino, is a very renowned product of Nara, which is used for making various food ranging from kudzu noodles (葛切り kuzu-kiri) to Japanese sweets (和菓子 wagashi). Somen (thin wheat noodles) from Miwa region (三輪そうめん Miwa sōmen) have a history as old as Nara. The noodles are served either hot or cold. Another well-known culinary product is shika-senbei, a rice cracker sold around Nara Park. Don't try eating it yourself though - it's meant for the deer! Note that closing times may be as early as 10:00pm.

Sanshū-tei (三秀亭), In the Isui-en Garden (依水園).. W-M 11:30-13:30. It's worth a visit more for the attractive old house and garden than the menu, which consists of two very traditional dishes: mugi tororo (plain rice with ground yam, ¥1200), and unagi tororo (the same with grilled eel, ¥2500).
Hiraso (平宗), 30-1 Imamikado-cho (south of Sarusawa Pond), ☏ +81 742 22-3900. Tu-Su 10:00-20:00. A nice sampling of local foods such as kakinohazushi and chagayu (tea gruel, which tastes better than it sounds) are included in dinner sets miyoshino and heijou. An English picture menu available. Around ¥2500.
Udon-tei (うどん亭), 6 Higashimuki-Nakamachi (inside Higashimuki Shopping Street arcade), ☏ +81 742 23-5471. Daily 11:00-20:30. Serves udon (thick wheat noodles) in various ways: hot or cold, plain or with tempura, etc. Always packed with local people at lunch times. Try one of the combos. Menu in Japanese and English. ¥500-1200.
Okaru (おかる), 13 Higashimuki-Minamimachi (inside Higashimuki Shopping Street arcade), ☏ +81 742 24-3686. Th-Tu 11:00-21:00, open on W if it's a holiday. A restaurant specialized in okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), a pan-fried cabbage cake with selection of meat. Okonomiyaki is definitely shortlisted on Kansai people's most beloved dishes. A choice of western or traditional Japanese tables are available. English menu available. ¥530-1500.
Totogin (inside Higashimuki Shopping Street arcade off the south-east entrance near the Kintetsu Nara stop), ☏ +81 742-20-1010. 11:00-22:00. A conveyor-belt sushi restaurant that won't break your wallet. Sushi is handmade and prepared fresh; just watch out as the different plates correspond to different prices so read the menu (both sides) carefully before chowing down. starting at ¥126 per sushi plate.
Yatagarasu (やたがらす), 13-1 Hayashi-kōji-cho, ☏ +81 742 20-0808. Daily 17:00-00:00. Fresh poultry from local farms cooked and served in many different ways (eg. grilled, fried, even raw) with a variety of either local or other regional sake available. Around ¥2500 depending on your appetite.
Nara Shōya (奈良庄屋), 48-5 Takama-cho (Keiwa building B1F), ☏ +81 742 24-2151. Daily 11:30-14:00, 16:30-23:00. A branch of large chain pub restaurant with traditional food like raw fish (さしみ sashimi), sushi, tempura, yakitori available. Though little (except for sake) is Nara local, quality of food is excellent for a chain type of restaurant. The restaurant is always filled with a dynamic, yet agreeable mood.
Maguro Koya (まぐろ小屋) (Exit Kintetsu Nara station, and you'll see a fountain of a Buddhist monk. Cross the lights to the other side of the big street there, and go into the small street that runs perpendicular to the big street. Walk a couple hundred meters, passing an am/pm convenience store on your right, and you will see an Asahi beer sign on the road, with the words まぐろ小屋 written on it on your left side). A tiny hole-in-the-wall place that specializes in tuna. Tekka-don (rice bowl with raw slices of tuna and thinly sliced nori), tuna karaage (breaded deep fried pieces of tuna), tataki (seared on the outside, raw on the inside slices of tuna), and many other methods of preparations. For most meals you can choose a maguro (tuna), honmaguro toro (Japanese fatty tuna), or chuutoro (fatty tuna) version of the dish. The proprietor is an ojiisan (elderly gentleman) who seems to really like what he's doing, is friendly and welcoming.

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Drink

Yamato-cha (大和茶) is the locally produced Japanese green tea which is healthy and tasty. There are also numerous sake brands, among which is Harushika brand, produced by one of the oldest existing sake breweries in Japan.

Kuramoto Hoshuku (蔵元 豊祝), 28 Higashimuki (Nara Kintetsu Bldg B1F) (in the Kintetsu Nara Station concourse), ☏ +81 742-26-2625. Daily 11:30-14:00, 16:00-21:00. Operated by a local brewery, Nara Toyosawa. A popular drop-by place for people commuting back home on Kintetsu lines. Sake test set of 3 small glasses ¥350, snack and either sake or beer ¥500.
Wembley Crown (ザ・ウェンブリー・クラウン), Nishimura Bldg, 14 Mochiidonochou (a 3-min walk from the north entrance of Mochiidono Center Arcade, on the east side), ☏ +81 742 26-7741. 17:00-23:00. A British pub with local and import beers, pub food and naturally premier league, rugby and other English sports on the TV. edit
House of the Rising Sun (大和茶 蔵祝), 299 Namibashi-Kudo 2-chome, ☏ +81 742 32-405. Popular foreigner bar.
Harushika Brewery, 24-1 Fukuchiincho, Nara 630-8381. A highlight of Naramachi neighbourhood. Taste six sake flavors distilled here with accompanying narazuke for ¥500. The brewery will guide you through the different taste profiles (with varying dryness and fruitiness).
Nara Izumi Yūsai (なら泉勇斎), 22 Nishiterabayashichō. A small sake bar/liquor store where you can stand at the counter and join the Japanese businessmen coming in for after-work drinks. English menu available. Tastings from ¥200.

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Sleep

As usual throughout Japan, make your reservation as early as possible for August (the time of yearly vacations and Bon festivals, when it is customary for the Japanese to travel to their and their ancestors' birthplaces) and around Christmas/New Year, and also in early November, when Shosoin treasures are on display at the National Museum. Cheaper accommodations may sell out and/or raise prices.

Takama Guest House (たかまゲストハウス), 27-1 Nasiharacho, ☏ +81 742 81-8757, ✉ qq3z2nrd@piano.ocn.ne.jp. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 10:00. This Japanese style house transformed into a cosy hostel is run by a modest welcoming guy. It has two clean 4-bed dorms for ¥2000 per person and a double for ¥3000 per person. Free Wi-Fi and a shared PC available. It was opened around September 2011. ¥2000.
Yuzan Guesthouse (遊山ゲストハウス), 1-4-10 Omiya-cho (Use the WEST exit of the JR station. Walk into the Nikko Hotel entrance and use the escalators to go downstairs. Walk through the mini shopping area and cross the road at the intersection on your left (Sanjo Honmachi). You can see a pharmacy and convenience store (Takiya). Cross the road and stay on the left side.), ☏ +81 742-31-2223. Check-in: 16:00-22:00, check-out: 11:00. This is a Japanese style house that has a very cozy feel. Owner speaks good English and is very helpful. Free Wi-Fi and a shared PC available. Bike rentals and Western breakfast available. Ceilings are low so be prepared to hit your head on random beams often. Mixed dorms start at ¥2400.
Ryokan Seikanso (旅館静観荘), 29 Higashi-Kitsuji-cho (15 minutes south of Nara Kintetsu station, along Mochiidono Street), ☏ +81 742 22-2670, fax: +81 742 22-2670, ✉ seikanso@chive.ocn.ne.jp. Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 10:00. In the Naramachi section of the town, among the tangle of narrow lanes and old houses. Tatami mats, classical architecture, and a well-kept inner garden feature in this traditional ryokan. The rooms are showing their age, but each features a samovar for tea and a small room with a table overlooking the garden. The shared bathrooms have been recently remodeled. Japanese/Western breakfast for ¥700/450 is served in the tatami dining room. Curfew 11PM. The manager speaks very passable English, can lend you a variety of guidebooks (in several languages) and puts out his own laptop in the common room in the mornings and evenings for guests to catch up on e-mail. ¥4320.
Ryokan Matsumae (旅館松前), 28-1 Higashi-Terabayashi-cho (located off Sanjo-dori, close to Sarusawa Pond and Gango-ji; about 7 minutes from Kintetsu Nara Station and 15 minutes from JR Nara), ☏ +81 742 22-3686, fax: +81 742 26-3927, ✉ hanami626@yahoo.co.jp. Check-in: 15:00-21:00, check-out: 10:00. The owners profess to be familiar with Buddha statue carving and calligraphy. Free wifi. No dinner, but you can get a Japanese breakfast for ¥900—reserve it the night before. (A Western breakfast is available too.) Single with shared bath ¥5,000, single with private bath ¥10,000, double with shared bath ¥10,000, double with private bath ¥12,000, larger rooms available as well.
ML International Hostel, 2-11-1-5f Shibatsuji-cho (30-second walk from Shin-Omiya Station), ☏ +81 742 35-1306, ✉ booking-ml@pla.jp.com. Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 10:00. A cozy hostel run by a very friendly and helpful Japanese gentleman. Easy access to train station. 8-bed mixed dorm, kitchen, shower. Small quarters but very clean and good for getting to know people. ¥2000.
Hotel Fujita Nara (ホテルフジタ奈良), 47-1 Shimosanjō-cho (On Sanjō Avenue.), ☏ +81 742 23-8111, fax: +81 742 22-0255. A modern western-style hotel, between JR and Kintetsu Nara stations. Singles ¥7500.
Nara Washington Hotel Plaza (奈良ワシントンホテルプラザ), 31-1 Shimosanjō-cho (on Sanjō Avenue), ☏ +81 742 27-0410, fax: +81 742 27-0484. Nationwide western-style hotel chain. Rooms have internet at no extra charge. Singles ¥6900.
Tempyō Ryokan (天平旅館), 9 Higashimuki-Nakamachi (in the Higashimuki Shopping Street Arcade), ☏ +81 742 22-0551, fax: +81 742 22-0553. Japanese and western-style rooms available. ¥6500-8000.
Kikusuirō (菊水楼), 1130 Takabatake-cho, ☏ +81 742-23-2001, fax: +81 742 26-0025. Deluxe Japanese-style ryokan inn. ¥40,000 depending on days and season. edit
Nara Hotel (奈良ホテル), 1096 Takabatake-cho, ☏ +81 742-26-3300, fax: +81 742 23-5252. Classic western-style hotel of deluxe class, since 1909. Room for ¥22,000-90,000.
Hotel Nikko Nara (ホテル日航奈良), 8-1 Sanjō-Hommachi (close to JR Nara Station), ☏ +81 742 35-8831, fax: +81 742-35-6868. A Japan Airlines group chain hotel. ¥10,500-27,000/room.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Work

There are many English conversation schools near Kintetsu Station.

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Keep Connected

Internet

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.

Phone

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.

Post

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.

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 34.6850869
  • Longitude: 135.8050002

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This is version 19. Last edited at 11:57 on Nov 12, 19 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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