Recently I had the pleasure of writing a story about gorgeous Nara for Escape – you can read it HERE. If you haven’t already visited this charming city – it’s an absolute must-do when in Japan !
Pop it on your itinerary immediately if staying in Kyoto or Osaka – or better still – book yourselves a couple of nights in Nara itself. While you can certainly do a day trip from either of the aforementioned cities – staying in this delightful town is the only way to really get a feel for how special it is.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve visited Nara since I started travelling to Japan 35 years ago. It is one of the few places I return to regularly and the many visitors we’ve taken there on tour also really dig it!
Recently we spent some time further exploring with some local tourism folk from VISIT NARA who promote their town with great pride. We were so very well looked after by them and the ‘village’ – and I call it that because that’s how it feels to be in situ – it’s not your typical city setting. While all normal city comforts are readily available the energy is relaxed and grounding. Nara’s history envelopes you and holds your hand whilst you explore the town’s beauty.
There are never enough words in a published story to do a place true justice so below I’m adding a few images from this particular trip and a few extra hot tips 😉 But do read this in tandem with the Escape Story because it won’t make much sense otherwise!
- 鹿寄せ Morning Deer calling and feeding
As with everything in the story this experience is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Kids will love it. (Big kids too!)
Find out details HERE
And once fed , back into the forest they go. If you are in Nara in winter make sure you don’t miss this excellent experience.
2. ほうせき箱 “Houseki-bako”, meaning Jewellery box, is THE place for Kakigori in Nara- their shaved ice is lighter than snow.
You’ll find a review here ( switch your auto translator on 🙂 )
3. Ever wondered how Japanese black ink ‘Sumi’ was made?? (or any ink at all for that matter!?) I bet you can’t guess how it all started and how Sumi is still made according to the original method today inside the walls of this traditional ink business. FASCINATING! I won’t spoil it – but if you have any interest in Japanese art and other creative endeavours/printing/ calligraphy/ artisan made goods you simply must experience this hands-on experience and make your own ink stick. See the ESCAPE article for contact details.
4. 樫舎 Kashiya
Is the wonderful wagashi (traditional sweets) shop I talk about in the Escape story – the master makes each sweet to order. Just breathtaking in every way. They were the softest, most delicate wagashi I’ve experienced in Japan. Plus excellent tea… and as it happens – coffee too! It’s a two for one – teahouse with a show! Don’t miss Kashiya
One thing you might not get to see while you are there is this antique wagashi box (see the lid above – it was so beautifully made)… a very fancy vessel for transporting handmade delicacies to very formal tea ceremonies and events. We were allowed a sneak peek.
5. 柿の葉寿司 Kakinoha-sushi making
I recommend trying persimmon leaf wrapped sushi while in Nara as it’s a local speciality but you can also learn how to make it at famous local restaurant (and for the record that’s water in those spray bottles ) it’s lots of fun plus you get to take away a lovely bento box full of your wares – HERE’S A LINK!
6. You’ll also note in the Nara story I talk about a vinegar restaurant we stopped for lunch – it was tiny, and hidden, very reasonably priced and DELICIOUS – find out the details in the Escape article. Best Sweet and Sour Pork on earth. Look past the pineapple ring…
7. Another local speciality is fruit and we were taken to a dessert store/cafe run by Horiuchi fruit farm. Preserved fruit every which way – freeze-dried, jam, jellied, desiccated, pickled, cordials and fresh are on sale – but many people flock here for their menu offerings – including a persimmon stuffed with a cannoli-like ricotta and chocolate mixture and served hot (we were there in winter) and it seems the local favourite is the fruit sandwiches with whipped cream on brown bread…. My favourite was the refreshing, fresh juices and hot chocolate with freezedried strawberry powder and whipped cream.. The Horiuchi Fruit shop is 10 minutes walk from Kintetsu Nara station
The persimmons weren’t the only things stuffed by the end of the day!
8 We also dropped in on a quaint handmade fan shop – they had a very specific local style with cut out patterns – if you book ahead you can even make one yourself! We didn’t share in that experience but if you are interested let me know and I’ll get the details for you.
9. Another place mentioned in the story is a particular shop with a very long history …Here’s some reference pics in case you go searching…
10. And finally – when in the ‘old town’ or Naramachi district do check out the museum mentioned in the Escape story/ Bottom left are antique shop-signs – aren’t they something!? You’ll see these red, climbing monkey lucky charms (migawari zaru) hanging all over Naramachi to protect homes and businesses. Find out more in situ ( you can also buy these at the museum – one of the women there sews them by hand).