JSPS Quarterly
No.56 2016 Summer

Introducing Japan: Nara

Dr. Ndubuisi Samuel Machebe

Nara is strategically located in less than a onehour drive from Kyoto and Osaka. It is one of the most popular spots visited by foreign tourists. The city is a calm and peaceful place with a rich historical background, having been Japan’s first capital way back in the 8th century. Nara hosts a cluster of historical heritage sites, including the world-famous bronze Buddha Tōdai-ji temple, the great Kohfuku-ji temple, and many other remnants depicting the origins of Japanese culture. I would recommend anyone intending to visit Nara to come in the spring or autumn seasons. I think you will be captivated by the many hundreds of cherry blossom (sakura) trees that adorn the city’s parks, temple and castle grounds, and adjoining hills in the spring and the leaves emblazoned with dramatically changing colors in the fall.

One of the best and most favorite visiting places is Nara Park. The park is unique because of the presence of an estimated 1,500 wild deer roaming everywhere throughout it. During my stay in Nara, I often spend time with my family visiting Nara Park. My four children like playing with the deer, often touching and feeding them as they are very friendly and not hostile to visitors in their territory.

Throughout the year, there are many cultural events that take place at city’s temples and shrines, such as Nara To-kae Festival. Held in August every year and occasionally in the winter as well, the festival attracts many foreign and Japanese visitors alike. About 20,000 lanterns are lit at night with shades of their light that penetrate the colored lantern paper shed upon building walls and water surfaces. It is an absolutely dreamy and fantastic site to see.

Dr. Machebe’s family at Nara Park

Nara is also known for its many traditional Japanese foods. A typical Nara cuisine is kakinoha zushi, a kind of sushi made of vinegar-seasoned rice topped with slices of fresh salmon or salted mackerel and formed in the shape of a cube wrapped in a persimmon leaf “kakinoha.” It’s very traditional, delicious, healthy, and highly nutritious! Aside from such local traditions, Nara offers very nice alternative spots like the Bar Arena and Mellow Café where foreign visitors can eat, drink, relax and enjoy Nara’s peaceful lifestyle and warm hospitality.

 on the map of Japan

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JSPS Quarterly No.56 2016