Itadakimasu! This year Canberra Nara Festival celebrates our 27 year strong relationship with our beautiful sister city Nara, Japan, a city that is held dear in my heart after spending a few nights there in 2018, riding bikes , petting deer, wandering ancient temples and stuffing my face with the best ramen I had ever eaten. This year the Nara Festival is swapping lanterns for food all throughout the city and with over 20 participating restaurants offering a range of delicious traditional Japanese dishes for eat in or takeaway you can either chose to dine in at one of the fabulous establishments or takeaway for a beautiful picnic in the grounds of the Nara Peace Park, where you can have the opportunity to strike the Nara Peace Bell.
So to get you in the mood for Itadakimasu, here are is a small guide to our beautiful sister city, Nara;
Nara is only a short train ride from Osaka and the capital of Japan’s Nara Prefecture, in south-central Honshu. The city has significant temples and artwork dating to the 8th century, when it was Japan’s capital. Deer roam freely around Nara Park and you are able to buy deer feed (know as Deer Crackers) from local shops and kiosks. Just be mindful to bow to the deer first and beware, they often bite.
The best way to see Nara is to stay in one of the small accommodations within the park, you can pick these up quite cheap and as most tourists decide to visit Nara as a day trip from Osaka you will find you’ll have the place almost completely to yourself after 5pm. We stayed at The Deer Park Inn which was only a short walk from the train station and conveniently located near a bike rental which is the best form of transport around the park. The bikes allowed us to visit the temples, roam around the park and ride into the town for dinner and a games evening in the local arcade. We also partook in some origami classes and learnt how to write our names in Japanese which was a fun activity to break up from all the deer petting and ramen eating.
Although the deer are my favourite attraction in Nara, there is more to see and do than pet deer. Nara is also home to some of the oldest and most beautiful temples we managed to see in our time in Japan, including the Todai-Ji Temple, home to Daibutsu (Great Buddha). The Daibutsu is the a must see for visitors and may even inspire your conversion to Buddism.
So whether its the history, deer or temples that bring you to Nara or the fact it is the sister city of your home town it truly is a magical place and a must visit on your trip to Japan. Although travel to Nara is off the agenda for most of us right now, you can still celebrate and ‘travel’ to this magical place by celebrating Itadakimasu this weekend and by trying some authentic Japanese Food, ringing the Peace Bell or learning a traditional Japanese craft.