The main attractions of Nara are located either in the centrally-located Nara Park or a few kilometres outside of central Nara. For a 1-day date in Nara, the most enjoyable is definitely a visit of Nara Park and of its surroundings on foot. To see Horyu-ji, Toshodai-ji and Yakushi-ji Buddhist temple, you would need to use public transportation instead, a fine choice when you are alone but not so romantic for a couple.
Date plan for a couple in Nara
Below is my recommended course for a couple spending 1 day in Nara. This course should keep you busy a full day; I hope you enjoy it!
- Walk from Kintetsu-Nara train station towards the east to explore the green peaceful area with Kofuku-ji Five Storied Pagoda.
- Do a quick loop around the pond that you can see on your right (a bit south).
- Meet the cute deers of Nara Park.
- Admire the exhibitions of Nara National Museum. Count at least one hour here as the temporary exhibitions showing treasures of Todai-ji are a delight.
- Keep heading east for an easy walk in the forest.
- Have a short break at the Garden Cafe.
- Go see the Kasuga-taisha Shinto shrine founded 1300 years ago.
- Head north among the trees to see the octogonal lantern of Todai-ji Buddhist temple and the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana.
- Enjoy the panoramic view at the hilltop hall Nigatsu-do. It looks a bit like Kyoto’s famous Kyomizu-dera with its platform but is much better in the sense that there are fewer tourists so you can better enjoy your time here and take nice photos.
- 1Stroll out of the forest to enjoy the Isui-en Japanese garden. Typically Japanese and particularly beautiful, it has a pond around which you will walk. The landscape of Isui-en combines the garden itself, trees behind, and mountains of Nara in the background; this makes a great composition mixing artifice and nature!
- Walk back to Kintetsu-Nara train station.
- Enjoy a delicious meal in one of the several good restaurants found under a shopping arcade starting at Kintetsu-Nara station.
As a couple, you should enjoy a leisurely pace in the park and in the forest, with much less people around than in Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka. You should also have fun moments with the deers, laughing at each other when a deer comes to ask for food or tries to eat your brochures or something else 🙂 If you are a couple of art & culture lovers, then have a look at the permanent exhibition of Nara National Museum featuring beautiful Buddhist statues; other couples are advised to focus solely on the temporary exhibition.
If you celebrate a special event such as a birthday or honeymoon, I recommend you to reorder the stroll in order to see the 2000 lanterns of Kasuga-taisha Shinto shrine that lit up when the night falls. This is very romantic.
Good memories with the rain
You can visit Nara normally in case of rain, as long as there is no typhoon coming. When it rains, the deers of Nara may wait for you under the trees, you are more likely to spend 2 hours in Nara National Museum instead of just 1 hour, and the Buddhist buildings will look more mysterious!
I visited Nara for the first time when a typhoon was coming; I was young and not so knowledgeable about typhoons at that time… Rain was really pouring so my girlfriend and I looked for a restaurant to serve as our shelter and to dry a bit. The lady owning the small restaurant in which we entered was extremely kind, brought a towel for us to dry our head and arms… then also provided a warm hand towel when we ordered food (which was delicious). The sweetness off this Japanese lady remains as one of my great memories in Japan! Anyway, check the weather before travelling 🙂
Nara has few hotels so many couples stay in another big city (Osaka or Kyoto) and just do a 1-day trip from their hotel there.
You can easily go to Nara from Kyoto and Osaka using trains belonging to Kintetsu Railways. Two railway companies let you reach Nara: Kintetsu Railways and JR West. On the contrary to the JR station, the Kintetsu station is very close to Nara Park; it thus makes a better point of entry. Starting in Osaka, there are direct trains from the south of Osaka e.g. Osaka-uehommachi station and Tsuruhashi station.
You can buy 1-day discount tickets that cost only 1500 yen each, and provide unlimited rides on designated Kintetsu Railway lines. These discount tickets can be bought at Kansai International Airport or at Kintetsu train stations such as Osaka-namba station or Osaka-uehommachi station until 31 October 2018 (other conditions/prices may apply afterwards).