International travel is no longer a pipe dream and if you're wondering where to head first we might have found just the place.
According to plenty of recent travel reports, Aussies want their travel this year to be spontaneous, travel for their wellness and mental health, get into nature and off the beaten travel.
So with those things in mind, here are 5 reasons why Nara, Japan needs to be on your 2022 bucket list.
Witness Japan’s Longest Cherry Blossom Season (without the city crowds!)
Craving wide open spaces, fresh air and nature? Do you want to see one of the most iconic and beautiful sights in Japan without worrying about city crowds?
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Japan during cherry blossom season, Mount Yoshino is a spectacular place to visit. The whole mountain turns pink from early April to May as 200 different varieties of 30,000 cherry blossom trees start to blossom, marking Japan’s longest cherry blossom season.
The best places to see cherry blossoms (or equally enchanting bright autumn leaves later in the year) are from Yoshimizu-jinja Shrine and Hanayagura Observatory, which offer sweeping vistas.
Tap into Your Spiritual Side
Experts predict that self-care tourism will surge as people shake off isolation blues and seek spiritual nourishment and wellness.
In Nara, you can experience zen meditation in a UNESCO-listed temple, try out ‘forest bathing’ in Yoshino, relax in a charming onsen town or even stay at a traditional temple offering ‘purifying sessions’ to help mend a broken heart! More on that below:
Visitors to Shigisan Chogonsonshi-ji Temple, in Nara’s north-western region, can stay overnight in a traditional Buddhist temple lodging, known as shukubo
Worshippers from all over Japan visit Shigisan to pray for business-related success, as well as more personal hopes and dreams
It is also known as a place to recover from heartbreak as the temple offers ‘purifying sessions’ to help expedite the process.
Immerse Yourself in a New Culture
Has being limited to a 5km radius in your LGA got you dreaming of experiencing a completely different culture?
Japanese culture is arguably one of the most fascinating in the world, and visitors to Nara can immerse themselves in many different Japanese traditions, including sake tasting, sword-making, sumo wrestling, tea ceremonies and onsen pools. You can even stay in a traditional mountain village.
One tourist favourite is definitely a sumo wrestling experience: Japan’s first sumo match is said to have taken place in Katsuragi, in the north-west of Nara Prefecture. Today, the Kehaya-za Sumo Museum offers the opportunity to see a traditional sumo bout where the original match first took place over 2,000 years ago. You will also have the opportunity to step onto the earthen dohyo ring yourself, stamp your feet, throw some salt and have a good-natured tussle with one of the wrestlers.
Unleash Your Inner Adventurer
Hoping to swap lockdown Netflix marathons for blood-pumping outdoor adventures? Nara’s got you covered.
Totsukawais an isolated hot spring paradise located in the heart of the pristine Kii Mountains, Nara prefecture. It is relatively unknown (even by Japanese people!). This village was home to some of the fiercest samurai, and that tough mountain spirit lives on.
Totsukawa and surrounding area – highlights for adventure seekers include:
Log rafting in neighbouring Wakayama prefecture (you have to check this out!)
And after a busy day of thrill-seeking, relax at one Totsukawa’s many onsen retreats; it’s a famous hot spring town
The famous Kumano Kodo passes through Totsukawa (one of two world heritage pilgrim routes used by pilgrims for 1200 years; this can be incorporated into your trip)
Feed Wild Deer
Because we all need some cute animals in our lives right now.
Animal-lovers will adore Nara Park, home to almost 1400 ‘celebrity’ deer that roam free among the park’s famous heritage temples and shrines. The deer are considered sacred and have coexisted with the people of Nara for more than a 1000 years. Although the resident deer are essentially wild, they are as close to tame as wild animals get and will confidently approach visitors hoping for treats. There are several vendors within the park selling “shika senbei” or deer crackers to feed them, which the deer will happily take from human hands. Cuter still, Nara’s deer are said to possess the unique talent of bowing to visitors – an apparent learned behaviour to charm tourists in to feeding them.
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