Nara Park & Mt. Wakakusa – a worthwhile day trip that can easily be done from Kyoto! Nara is a relatively small city in the Kansai region. As the former capital of the country, Nara is home to a wealth of historical sites set amidst idyllic scenery.
A highlight of visiting Nara is undoubtedly Nara Park, known as home to hundreds of semi-tame deer. The deer wander freely through the park and you can feed them special deer cookies, which they also accept very willingly (and sometimes quite cheekily!).
In the middle of the park rises the imposing Todai-ji temple, one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Japan. This architectural masterpiece houses the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world. The temple itself is truly worth a visit and an example of amazing craftsmanship and spirituality.
Directly from Nara Park, after a short, steep climb, we reach the viewpoint atop Mt. Wakakusa. With its striking silhouette, the mountain is a popular destination for hikers and photographers. In the fall, its flanks are thick with pampas grass, making for a great sight. Mt. Wakakusa is also of historical significance, as it once served as a signal mountain; fire signals were sent from here over long distances to convey important messages.
Heading back towards Nara, we will hike through the Mt. Kasuga Primeval Forest, which has been designated a World Heritage Site and is a protected area. The forest is known for its impressive biodiversity and pristine beauty. During our hike, we repeatedly come across small shrines and memorials embedded in the landscape. I find the many, huge cedars and maple trees particularly remarkable, through them the forest actually seems a bit like a remnant from ancient times.
“There is a legend that in AD768, the first of the four gods of Kasugataisha Shrine travelled all the way from Ibaraki Prefecture North of Tokyo, to Mt. Mikasa in Nara, on a white deer. Thereafter, deer were considered sacred, and killing one was punishable by death. Today, they are protected as Natural Monuments, and revered as holy animals in Nara.” – visitnara.jp
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Start/Destination: Nara Station
Duration: 4-5 h
Nara Station – Nara Park – Mt. Wakakusa (342 m)- Mt. Kasuga Primeval Forest – Nara Station[gkit id=14]