Dear visitor, if you know the answer to this question, please post it. Thank you!

Note that this thread has not been updated in a long time, and its content might not be up-to-date anymore.

Half Day in Nara 2019/1/3 07:52
I'm trying to work out what would be a realistic half day trip to Nara....and I'm doing that thing where you go 'I'd like to go there...and there...ooh that looks interesting too...'

I'll be arriving around 12-12:30. I definitely want to go to Todaiji and see the deer. I'd like to go to Horyuji but think that will take too long to get there and back I think. Kasuga Taisha also really appeals with the gardens and lanterns. But then Kofukuji with the Golden Hall so recently reopened would be also great to see.

Help? I know I can't do everything and I can't expand the trip to a full day. I'm thinking I might need to do Todaiji, the deer and I'm hoping one other place.

Any advice?
by moonangelica (guest)  

Re: Half Day in Nara 2019/1/3 09:14
Arriving 12:30, and spending five hours in the area is doable. You can see/do quite a lot. If you have less time, Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha are normally the two "highlight" points with the deer incidental, along with the walk in between.

Most of my trips to/from Nara I count the train to/from in my day from either Kyoto or Osaka and the actual time spent in Nara would be 5-6 hours.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Half Day in Nara 2019/1/3 09:20
Horyuji is too far from the other attractions for a half-day trip.

Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji are all within close proximity, so tackle those 3 places. Deers will be between those places, so you can interact with them on the way from one to the next.
by miyako (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Half Day in Nara 2019/1/3 09:23
I really like Nara (much more than Kyoto, really) and have spent probably 3 weeks there, most recently last November and I still found things I hadnt realised were there before. We were also lucky enough to be there just after the Golden Hall opened and it had a light up at night where you carried around lanterns that was spectacular.

I think if you are getting there around midday, then wander up to Todai-ji and getting there and looking through would be maybe 90 mins. Really the big ticket item is the great hall, you see other nice stuff on the way through. Then wander up to Kasuga Taisha and I think getting there and about then back to town will probably take 2 hours assuming you dont get sidetracked too much. You dont have to go anywhere specifically for the deer, they are everywhere in the Park and really the ones away from Todaiji are nicer.

So I figure you'd be well and truly back around the Golden Hall by 4.30PM. The great Hall itself doesnt take long to look through although the artifacts are really interesting, but it is like a 15 minute thing, not something that takes hours. It is also a nice town to be at night, with some great food options.

by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Half Day in Nara 2019/1/3 13:30
I think you already answer your own question.
You'll get the most bang for the buck by going to Nara Park. Todaiji, Kasuga Shrine, Kofukuji, the Isuien & Yoshikien gardens....
by Ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Half Day in Nara 2019/1/3 13:47
Just on Horyuji, we had a guest went there on their own back in 2017 - it was something they really wanted to see so they made the trip. The feedback/result - he said he wasted a lot of time for something that wasn't worth it - his opinion, I've never been.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Half Day in Nara 2019/1/3 19:01
Thank you everyone. I'm glad to hear that I will be able to get through most of what I was looking at despite only having a half day. Sometimes it's hard to budget out the time when you're not sure about how long you should expect to be at a place.

It's interesting to see the Horyuji didn't stand up for someone, what I had seen online looked pretty interesting. Though maybe something I'll put aside for a longer trip in the area.

I think I'll take LazyPious' suggested route and see how I go on the day ^_^
by moonangelica (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Half Day in Nara 2019/1/4 06:38
Horyuji is one of those places in Japan that may fall short of expectations for visitors who aren't fairly knowledgeable about Japanese history and religion. Some Japanese natives absolutely revere it, and these people tend to strongly encourage people to go there, but I think it takes a fair level of sophistication to appreciate it. Some foreigners do, of course, but for many, it falls far short of the buildup. I think the same is true of Sanjusangendo in Kyoto and Byodoin in Uji. I can see why many people would be impressed with Sanjusangendo even without having the background to fully appreciate the Buddhist art there, but for others it isn't really worth going out of the way to see (I realize this would be considered a heretical suggestion by many), and I personally would tell people not to put it on their short list of places to visit in Kyoto, if they aren't particularly interested in Buddhism or historical artifacts. As for Byodoin, for me it isn't worth going to Uji to see, although there are a couple of other temples there that are among my favorites in the entire Kansai area. I'm certainly not trashing Horyuji, or Sanjusangendo and Byodoin, but I will likely never go back to any of them myself.

The bottom line is that recommendations of "must see" places should always be considered, but it pays to do some additional research and checking before spending precious time to make a visit. (I like to google a place name and then select "Images" to get a large number of visual impressions, which often give me an informal sense of whether or not I am going to find a place appealing myself.) In particular, when a Japanese native makes a strong recommendation, be aware that this person has an entirely different perspective than a foreigner has. That doesn't mean it isn't valid, but foreigners may simply lack the background to appreciate certain places as much as someone who grew up in Japan and whose perceptions are strongly influenced by years spent in the culture and education system there. There are so many great places to see in Kansai that for tourists with limited time on their hands, it is best to pick a small number of outwardly appealing sites that are conveniently located (which Horyuji isn't, really). One's impressions from a first (or only) trip to Japan should ideally not be dominated by memories of long waits for crowded buses, long walks on sore feet, and long periods spent standing on commuter trains.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Half Day in Nara 2019/1/4 08:53
I guess everyone is different. I did enjoy Horyuji (and a couple of other temples closeby), but I agree that for a half day visit to Nara, sticking with Todaiji and Kasuga jinja seems to be the best bet.


BTW, The place that left me most deluded in and around Nara was Heijo palace:
It certainly didn't help that it was very cold that day...

The only drawback on Todaiji is that it gets incredibly busy. If you can reorganize your day to be in the morning in Nara and start with Todaiji at 9:00 that would be much better from a sightseeing perspective. At the opening hour it is a very enjoyable temple, later on during the day, masses of tourists arrive. But being in Nara only half a day, I think that the great Buddha at Todaiji is really a must (at least for most) and rightfully so. Already the temples up on the hills behind Todaiji get much less tourists. And you have great views over the landscape from there.

by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: Half Day in Nara 2019/1/4 10:24
Given time I would explore a lot more places as I travel across the country. I see some of the interesting places that get featured on TV and sometimes they are pretty obscure, but most have a particular feature that can make the trip worthwhile, if you know why. (I've seen a few programmes this week that fall into that category.) Probably I would also be looking at things differently to a lot of my guests
But, as is listed in the title of this thread - "Half Day", and that limits things pretty severely.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Half Day in Nara 2019/1/4 20:55
@ Ken It is always interested to see what different people prefer to see and I do agree that having the background to appreciate a temple beyond the artwork definitely helps. From what I've seen the Horyuji does appeal but unfortunately time is what it is and it looks like it's a maybe next time :)

@ LikeBike Yeah, I thought that might be the case with the crowds but I don't think at this point I can change it around much. I'll be a closer look though, maybe there's still a little flexibility in the day.

@ JapanCustomTours Yeah I have a huge list of places which I've had to strike off the list or slim down. Unfortunately I only have the 3 weeks and don't know if or when I'll be able to be back so am going for a reasonably packed trip that sees the things on the top of the list but doesn't run me off my feet :)
by moonangelica (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Half Day in Nara 2019/1/5 05:41
Todaiji does get busy but it is a big place and everything in it is big so you can still move around and see everything. It gets hard to find a place to eat around there between about 12 and 2, though. All of that said, compared to somewhere like Kiyomizerda or Fushimi Inara, Todaiji is like a ghost town!
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Half Day in Nara 2019/1/5 09:06
I understand about chopping things out. The longest tour I've run clocked in at 35 days and we chopped a ton of things off the list of possible places to visit and there were many areas of Japan we didn't even bother to head to. Even a pretty standard 2-week type of schedule only takes in a half-dozen places at t a fairly high level.
For all of the combined months in certain places travelling around Japan, there are still thousands of places I haven't been - you just can't do them all.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

reply to this thread