For travels over a week long, I like to schedule rest days about halfway through the trip. My goal is always to find a relaxing quiet town with not much going on after sunset.
Nara is just an hour train ride outside of Kyoto. You can easily schedule this as a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka if you like, but we decided to book a hostel near the park and stay overnight.
Aside from being the first permanent capital of Japan, Nara is famous for it’s expansive park and the inhabitants therein.
Thousands of wild Sika deer call this town home and are considered one of Japan’s national treasure.
150 yen will buy you a pack of 10 deer crackers. But beware, once these treats are in your hand, you are going to have at least 8 deer doing whatever they can to steal them away.
Also look out for the bigger shaggier guys. These are the bucks and Autumn is mating season, meaning they can be aggressive.
The best way I found to avoid encounter is to casually extend your empty hands and let the deer sniff them. Once they realize you are not a source of food, they will wander on their way.
While the deer are certainly the main attraction, be sure not to miss the shrines and temples in the area.
There really are some beautiful sights to take in.
Restaurants are not as plentiful (or as cheap) as some of the larger cities we have visited. But there is a good selection closer to Nara station. I had a craving for curry and low and behold, we found a nice spot with all types of curry, katsu, and noodles.
Typically I don’t spend too much time talking about the places we stay, but Nara Guesthouse Backpackers is a gem!
Just a 10 minute walk from the station and a block away from the park.
This hostel is actually 100 year old traditional Japanese home complete with tatami mats and a beautiful courtyard garden.
Our host, Ryuu, greeted us warmly, sat and talked with us and other guests, and recommended some good spots for dinner.
We wound up choosing a small place called Kamoju specializing in grilled duck. It’s a little more expensive than some of the surrounding restaurants, but if you want local Nara duck, this is the place!
On to our next destination: Hakone.
We took the Shinkansen (bullet train) past Mt Fuji to Odawara Station. From there, our hotel was an hour bus ride up a winding mountain road. We arrived a little past 2:00pm and did not leave the hotel until we checked out. Extreme rest day!
What was there to do in the meantime?
I purposefully booked this hotel because of two things. 1. Views of Mt Fuji from the room
and 2. The bath downstairs.
Bonuses include complimentary dinner and breakfast.
Check out the room too!
Working for a popular tourist destination has taught me that rest days are not only a good idea but a necessity if you value your health and relationships. Don’t be the family having the meltdown in front of the ice cream stand. Take time for yourself.