A Day Trip In Nara

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The march to Kasuga-Taisha Shrine begins! Going here during oshogatsu means being prepared for crowds.
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Nearing the entrance after almost 30 minutes of lining up! Best to grab some snacks and drinks from the stalls nearby prior to queuing.
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Finally made it to the main temple! It is customary for believers of the Shinto religion to do the ff: 1.) Toss a 5 yen coin 2.) Clap 2 times  3.) Bow Make a Wish  4.)  Bow again |  According to locals, this is a humble gesture for those requesting for good fortune in the new year.
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Countless lanterns fence the entire shrine.

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My friend’s stamp book! I think she has now already collected around 20 stamps from different temples all over Japan.
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Prayers are being hung on this old tree.

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There would not be a Nara without its deer! From Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, retrace your steps back to the main avenue and make a hard right towards Wakakusaya Hill. The wheat-colored hill will serve as your landmark.
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Kawaii!
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After a pleasant stroll, you will end up at Nigatsu-do. It is quite an amazing structure and offers great panoramic views at the top. Entrance is free.

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View at the top!
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For nature lovers, Nara offers a hiking trail not known to many tourists and locals. The name is Kasugayama Mountain Trail. It is quite tricky to get here but coming from Wakakusaya Hill, retrace your steps to the main avenue and check the signs. It should be about 400m down a different path from the main avenue.
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The hike is a moderate one and is about 3kms. long. It should take about 1.5 hours going up and down, depending on how long you stay at the top.
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We made it!
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On the way back to the JR station, you can pass by Todaiji temple. This is one of the biggest temples I have ever seen and is found among other great temples as well. The sad part was it closes at 5PM so we were not able to see the Great Buddha inside.
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Looks bigger than it seems. The two gold horns at the back are actually from another bigger temple inside!

For the last part of oshogatsu (winter break), me and my friends decided to head on to nearby Nara.  Nara is most popularly known in Japan for its free-roaming deer but the city also has a rich past.  It is the first imperial capital of Japan and was established around 710.  You can easily compare and contrast the shrines and structures here with those in other parts of Japan.

The city is small and easy to navigate for a day trip.  From Kyoto, you can take the JR Nara line for 710 yen one way.  The train ride is about 55 minutes long via the rapid train and about 1.2 hours via the local train.  Getting around is best done on foot.  For those who are in a rush, you can take the “Gurutto” bus (color red) which goes around the major tourist attractions for 100 yen per trip.

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