We wanted to visit Nara, but we had a very limited stay in Osaka (the closest we would get) and didn’t know if we could make it. After the typhoon, we had one day of OK weather (it did rain in the afternoon) and decided, on the spot, to go. I’m glad we did. So, in September 2016, we made it! And here’s our guide to see Nara in one day with kids!
Getting to Nara
We left home a bit after 9. It took us around 40 minutes from the house in Osaka to Nara station. It was one day after the typhoon, we were unsure if the weather would hold, but since we didn’t have much time left, we went anyway. It was cloudy and gray, but still hot and humid.
The trip from Nara to Osaka, Osaka to Nara, Kyoto to Nara or Nara to Kyoto takes around 40 minutes in a regular train. It can take a little bit over an hour depending on the time of travel and the transport method used, but it doesn’t go over that.
What to do in Nara, Japan? See the deer, of course!
We had left Nara train station and walked toward the park, following the signs, for 5 minutes when we encountered the first deer.
Well, and, of course, the first deer senbei (the deer biscuit) seller. We bought one pack for each kid and started feeding the deer right away. They were adorable and we were feeding them whole biscuits until Angelo told us to give them small pieces.
They were still there, taking the little pieces of biscuit from our hands nicely. But they are fierce. And hungry, probably, because they do ask for food.
The ones we found asked for food by pulling our clothes with their mouths. One of them, right there, tried to pull my t-shirt and ended up biting my belly. We all laughed and played, and moved on.
On a side note: don’t fret to buy the biscuits from the first seller, because there are many of them, and there are always many deer everywhere. And feed the deer in bits, not whole biscuits.
Soon enough, we found more deer than we could count. So. Many. Deer.
And they came in groups toward whoever was holding the biscuits. Even though they could knock Coral and Jose down, they didn’t. They bit our clothes to ask for more, surrounded us, and, sometimes, even bit us, but they were nice enough. We had loads of fun with them.
One of them, closer to Todaiji, came to Angelo and started rubbing its head to Angelo’s legs and they spent a while getting to know each other. It was cute.
One thing: people see you with a biscuit and they come around like crazy to take photos of you with the deer. You may need to set some boundaries.
After our biscuits were done, we headed to see the temples.
Other Nara Tourist Spots
Kofukuji and the pagodas
We first entered Kofukuji (it’s all paid) and the 3 and 5 story pagodas. They’re beautiful, but we could only see the bottom story, which was a little disappointing. And we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, another sad thing. It is, as everything in Japan, very organized and smooth.
Then we went to see Todaiji (also paid), where sits one of Japan’s biggest Buddha statues. It is really big and it was also very crowded.
If you’d rather take a tour and have it all laid out to you, check your options below!
It took us a while to be able to light an incense before entering, but we wanted to do it anyway. Coral (4) broke hers to pieces – they are fragile, but the rest of the family did OK.
We prayed before entering (I just thanked for the blessings and the kids probably only pressed their hands together and closed their eyes for a second) and we saw it, the Buddha. It was really big and impressive, but it was difficult to focus on it.
People were wild inside the temple and I got really scared some of my kids would get carried away and end up lost, so I didn’t enjoy at all. I took a few photos that don’t look that good and spent the rest of the time watching the kids.
It was also very, very loud, so it didn’t make for a very spiritual experience…
They were also not impressed with the Buddha but enjoyed seeing the miniature temple that was on display. It even had the Buddha inside.
There were many temples in and around Nara Park, and many of them are free, so wander around and check what you want/can see.
When I say many, I really mean many. SO MANY I couldn’t note the names of them all.
Souvenir from Nara
We got a small omamori for each from one temple, which is said to bring protection, health, luck, or whatever it is you choose.
There are, though, many other options, like the many deer-related items (keychains, biscuits for humans, candies, hats), special teas, maneki-neko – the little cats that bring money – and so much more! Don’t buy everything from the first shop you find, because there are so many of them!
Nara for families with kids
To be really honest, the outside of the temples were a lot more interesting and beautiful.
The gardens are so beautiful, there are the fountains where people wash their hands before entering a temple, the deer, the gorgeous paths….
If we ever go to Nara again, we’ll definitely stay outside. It is a very beautiful place that should be visited at least once in a lifetime.
While we were resting outside of one of the temples, I sat on the steps and one deer came along and let me take a selfie. Pretty fun and adorable. This one hung around for a while, it’s a shame we were out of biscuits.
Eating in Nara with kids
We decided to eat something at 4 pm when it started to rain, and guess what? Almost everything was closed. Things would open for dinner at 5 so we were left with very few options.
We ended up eating at a café (Baby Face Planet) by the Kintetsu train station. It was good food, not the best but still OK. In the end, we ordered the huge parfait and had fun.
It wasn’t worth the price, as half of it was corn flakes, but it was fun none the less.
Nara is very famous for its Japanese food, so do try to eat during meal times, not when it rains (like us). There are many restaurants I’d have loved to try!
To finish it…
We ended the day with very happy and tired kids – they did love the deer. When I showed them the bruise I got from the deer bite, everyone was surprised. They couldn’t believe a sweet and toothless creature could do that.
We did love it.
Next time, we’re going to:
- buy more biscuits but give them out slowly;
- watch out for bites;
- eat at meal times;
- take an umbrella;
- enter less temples and enjoy more of the deer, the gardens and paths.
- City / Country
- Minimun Stay
- $ ~ $$$
- Best local transport option
- Do we recommend it?
- Nara / Japan
- A few hours
- Child friendly enough
- Trains and walk!
- Super safe
- Oh, yes!
Check it out our trip to Nara in video below and don’t forget to subscribe to our Youtube Channel!