If you are the type of person who would enjoy frolicking with wild deer while surrounded by the sweet comfort of mother nature, you're in luck! Such a place does exist, and it is only a short trip away from one of Japan's most famous cities.
During our 4 day trip to Kyoto, Nara was an absolute must. We chose to make it our Day 3 adventure because we had heard nothing but good things. The deer... the environment... the FOOD! All of it seemed just too good to be true.
When I had first heard about this magical place that inhabited more deer than humans, it didn't interest me too much at first. It was a place I assumed I would never visit, but let me tell you... regardless of what interests you... I can assure you that you will not be disappointed! There's honestly a little something for everyone & those deer are just so darn hilarious!
Veg Out isn't in Nara, but it was our first place we stopped by to pick up some breakfast. This quaint little cafe was super trendy and had some healthy AND vegan options on their menu. They offered delicious food varieties, a welcoming staff, and cool hipster vibes. This combo definitely left me wanting to come back for more!
We arrived right as they opened their doors, and there was no one else there! We got an early start on our day and it was well worth the peace and tranquility we felt in that sweet little cafe. Once we were rested and our bellies were full, we picked up our suica cards & were on our way to Nara!
HOW TO GET THERE:
There are a variety of ways that one can get to Nara when traveling from the heart of Kyoto! The lines with the most direct shots would be via...
When traveling to Kyoto from Tokyo, the easiest way to get to Nara is by getting to Kyoto FIRST. The options here are via..
I've only done overnight buses because I feel that it maximizes time and they are also considerably cheaper! However, for any tourist with the JR Pass, the Shinkansen is a super simple way to go since it's already paid for.
Playing with the Deer
The moment we stepped out of Nara Station, I could already see a couple furry friends in the distance. I was already itching to pull out my camera when I realized I'm sure these were just the first of hundreds. I'll give you a hint, I surely wasn't wrong.
In Nara, deer and humans are practically FORCED to coexist day in and day out. At first I was surprised at how calm and casual most of these gently creatures were, but then made the connection that this was clearly not their first rodeo. As for me, this was surely a first and I was going NUTS!
Deer Cookies are sold at every corner for 500 Yen and I got as many as my hands could carry! What a way to make a business. Tourists and locals alike are constantly filtering in and out of the little cookie stands in hope of attracting our precious wild friends. It surely does the job!
Interacting with the deer was such a unique experience. Like humans, no creature is alike and they all had such diverse personalities. One second I would meet a deer who was patient & gently eating deer cookies from my palm. Another second, there was one who was aggressively head butting my thighs and gobbling up my map.
Once my map was in the belly of an animal, it was pretty much useless. All the important parts had practically vanished. Instead of scrambling to find a new map, we decided to see where the path took us and just appreciate the beauty of autumn! The colors that surrounded us were truly stunning. For us California girls, colored leaves are pretty minimal at home. We are used to the the fake ones you have around your house simply for decoration. Nothing prepared us for this.
For the most part, we focused on appreciating the nature. We had seen about 5 temples in the last couple of days, so we were pretty templed out. Todaji Temple is a very popular one that was initially on our list, but we decided to continue on our way to see what else was around town.
This restaurant is a MUST!
I mean, unless you don't eat fish.
I have never felt so passionate about a food recommendation. So when I say this was the best meal I've ever had, you better believe it. This picture honestly does not do it justice. It sort of just looks like mush. This was simply a quick shot before we dug in. Reflecting back on it, I wish I focused so much more on this little restaurant because it deserves all the business in the world.
Maguro Koya is set up in a cozy little shop, and the environment is concise and secluded. It's no insanely popular joint with a line wrapped around the corner, but that doesn't reflect the foods' quality. We were one of the last customers before they closed for lunch and we stayed as long as humanly possible before getting kicked out. Savoring every moment of this experience was important.
Higashimuki Shopping Street
This shopping street has everything! This was our last stop of the day and it was so much fun to explore the variety of shops and try some new foods. I personally spent a majority of the time in the souvenir shop looking at the cute little deer merch, but that's just me.
While we were wandering through the streets we came across an eye catching pastry shop that immediately got our attention. The store's name was Ichouya Cafe. It was warm and inviting as the night grew cold, so we figured we'd go in to see what they had to offer.
We both got a mouthwatering ice cream crepe that filled all of our sugary desires. Mine was drizzled with chocolate sauce and even had a tasty vanilla macaroon (my favorite)! In addition to a little last minute karaoke, This kawaii tea room was the coziest way to finish our day. Nara had a little of everything I never knew I needed and I would definitely go back if given the chance.