Nara was the first capital of Japan and former residence of the imperial family. It is such a dreamy place.
We caught the JR local line from Kyoto to Nara which took an hour. Once you get there, it's all on foot from the train station.
We pounded the pavement straight to the entrance of the deer park, only to be greeted by 50+ Bambi's all vying for our attention should we offer deer biscuits. The deer stroll confidently up to each tourist, check hands for deer biscuits (bought from the lady nearby for 200 yen), gobble them up, and go in for a head scratch. On the other hand, if you have none, you are completely snubbed. Don't expect a patting opportunity!
There were tourists running around with a pile of biscuits being chased by a herd of deer, instead of just stopping and feeding them. It was hilarious and so much fun. There are big ones and baby ones. Ones with huge velvety antlers and ones with none. It is such a unique experience and one of the best I had while in Kyoto.
If you like the deer, don't worry, keep walking and you will be followed. There are tonnes of them all throughout the park where the temples are situated.
We visited the Tōdai-ji Temple and the Kasuga Shrine. The Tōdai-ji Temple is massive. Walking towards it I thought surely it must be multiple stories, but no this is just the home to one giant Buddha. The one thing you notice at all these temples is how pristine everything is kept. These guys were hand cutting the Tōdai-ji lawn, it was perfecto.
Over three thousand stone lanterns line the way to the Kasuga Shrine. The deer that roam freely in it's surrounds are believed to be sacred messengers of the Shinto gods that inhabit the shrine and nearby mountainous terrain.
Nara is a whimsical wee place, and I highly recommend it for a half day trip from Kyoto.