Nara, Japan, with kids

kofukuji, nara

The first sight of Kofukuji, Nara

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 visited Nara with our kids.

We left home a bit after 9. It took us around 40 minutes from home 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.

Nara, Japan

There are many temples in Nara, and many of them are free

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.

feeding Nara deer

Coral, 4, feeding a deer in the park

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.

cleansing ritual

Angelo, Jose, and Coral cleansing themselves before entering the temple

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.

Todaiji, Nara, Japan

Walking toward Todaiji, Nara

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.

Nara deer

Inside this temple, there were monks praying while tourists took photos and chatted – Angelo and Jose went to see while the rest of us sat and waited at the steps

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. It took us a while to be able to light an incense before entering, but we wanted to do it anyway. Coral 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.

Nara deer selfie

The sweetest deer ever

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.

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.

Nara walks

The paths are just the most beautiful thing

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.

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. At 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.

Todaiji Buddha

The Great Buddha of Nara

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.

But we did love it.

Check it out!

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  1. […] Kyoto (maybe spend a night at a Ryokan, visit the amazing temples and the pretty gardens), Nara (the deer park, of course), and Suzuka, where my dad is. We might go to Hiroshima or Nagasaki and […]

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