Nara, the first capital of Japan, is a one of the highlights of almost every Japan Itinerary. We really loved to stroll around the Nara Park and explore all the impressive temples. Below you can find a short summary about where to stay, our highlights and vegan food options. If you scroll down you can find a Google map with all important places marked. You can import this map to your own Google Maps and find all the places easily during your trip.
Where to Stay in Nara
As one of the highlights of Japan Nara offers tonnes of accommodation possibilities. We stayed at Nara Oak Hostel which offers really good value for money. The rooms are clean and have everything you would need even the typical Japanese dress (Yukata). In the lobby there is a cozy sitting area where you can get free coffee and tea. They also have a microwave, a little grill and toaster as well as bowls, plates and cutlery. Breakfast is not included, but for 100¥ you can get free bakery stuff. All the bakery stuff is not vegan, so we bought whole grain bread and Avocados in a nearby supermarket. It was very handy that they offered a toaster and all kitchen equipment. The location is very close to the Nara Park and only 15 mins away from Nara Station, also the supermarket (Paket) is almost just across the street. Check the prices here. You can get a discount (19EUR) if you book through this link and we will get the same. Click.
Zero Waste Tips for Your Stay at Nara Oak Hostel
They will change the bedsheets and all towels everyday if you should stay 2 nights like we did, put the “Do Not Disturb” Sign on your door. Furthermore they offer a lot disposable toiletries so make sure not to use them just bring your own. If you get some free coffee or tea, just take the cups they offer, don’t use the paper cups next to the machine. Also during the breakfast they will hand you paper plates for the bakery stuff just go over and take a real plate. Don’t forget your own drinking bottle.
Best Temples in Nara
We stayed one and a half day in Nara with one day sunshine and the other day rain, but we had so much fun with all the deers and magical temples. If you start early you can make all the temples in one day.
Visit the Great Buddha in Todai-Ji Temple (600¥ Admission)
After passing the impressive gate you can see the Todai-Ji temple which was built in AD 728. I was really shocked to see this beautiful construction. I have never seen such a great temple during all my time in China. The main attraction of the Todai-Ji is the Great Buddha (Daibutsu). It belongs to the Unesco World Heritages and is one of the biggest bronze figures in the world (16m high). The Great Buddha hall is the biggest wooden building in the world.
After walking around the Great Buddha you will find one of the wooden columns has a whole inside. You will not miss it usually a tour group is standing there and all people try to fit through the hole, mostly kids though as the hole is exactly the size of the buddha’s nostrils. If you can fit through the hole, your enlightenment in your next life is for sure and you will live happy and fortuned. Luckily we made it through the whole. Just in case 🙂 You should try it too.
Enjoy the Sunset on the Veranda of Nigatsu-Do Temple
After exiting Todai-Ji Temple walk up a lantern-lined staircase to reach another great temple Nigatsu-Do. Explore the wooden veranda and if you have time watch the sunset from here.
We were lucky to be there during the time of the Shuni-e ceremony which is held to welcome spring and keep away disaster. This ceremony is held allover Japan, but the most famous place to watch it is in Nigatsu-Do Temple. It was super crowded and people already started waiting in front of the temple more than 2 hours before the actual event. During the ceremony monks will light up a bamboo stick and will run with it through the temple. Having in mind that this is a wooden temple this is quite a dangerous thing.
The Pathway to the Kasuga Taisha is already magical. You will pass the big red shrine and walk up a stairway with hundred of lanterns. Behind almost every lantern you can find a deer or two or three. This shrine also belong to the Unesco World Heritage and is famous for its bronze lanterns inside.
If you have time continue exploring the area around the forest, is full of more shrines, lanterns and cute deers.
If you enter the Nara Park you will see Japan’s second tallest 5 storeys pagoda. The entrance for this temple is free, but some buildings like the great hall require an entrance fee. We just had a look at the free areas and all the deers.
Vegan Food in Nara
You don’t have to worry there is definitely something to eat for Vegans in Nara. During daytime, it is no problem to find a vegan meal, after 6pm the options are limited though. Most restaurants close at 6pm after all the tourist crowds left. You can also buy some food for lunch in the Paket supermarket (you can find the location in the map below). You can get some soba noodles, tofu sushi, tempura and many other things. It helps to ask the staff for help to read the exact description. For us it is a bit easier because many Chinese characters are the same in Japanese. We also bought our breakfast in that supermarket they have toast without milk powder in it. Almost all toasts you can find in Japanese supermarkets have milk powder inside. So be careful. It is also possible to get some noodles in the Nara Park.
Noodle Restaurant next to Nigatsu-Do
During our walk through the Nara Park we became super hungry out of sudden. All other vegan restaurants are quite a walk away. So we decided to have a noodle soup close to the Nigatsu-Do temple (it is marked in the map, Google maps only shows the Japanese name). They have 2 vegan soups and both are delicious. The portions are relatively small for the price of 900¥ per soup.
After 6pm we only found 2 options for dinner.
This is a little Japanese style curry house which offers 2 different veggie curry options. Luckily they have an English menu so it is no problem to order. We had both curries one is spinach & bean and the other one sesame and vegetables. I like the spinach & bean one better, but Roland liked both. Price per curry is 880¥. The portion size is okay.
Natural vegan cafe which offers tofu hamburger (Japanese style without bread) & vegan noodles. They also have soy milk for your coffee. The location is very close Oak Hostel and the Nara Park.
Here is the map for your trip to Nara. Just click on the top right corner and the map will open with in Google Maps on your phone or desktop. Afterwards you can find this map saved in “My Maps” in your Google Maps Account. If you are in Nara just open the map and find all places easily.