Nara used to be the capital of Japan from 710 to 794 and even celebrated its 1,300th anniversary of its ascension as Japan’s Imperial capital in 2010.
These days, Nara has developed into a local center of commerce and government. It has a very mountainous region which is the perfect place for viewing cherry blossoms in spring. Nara is even home to 1,200 deer!
Mount Kasuga Primeval Forest is considered to be a well-known World Heritage Site. The forest is believed to be sacred thus a strict rule on “No Hunting” or “No Lumbering” has been implemented. Bordering the forests are leisurely hiking trails where one trail can reach as far as 9.2 km. Here, you can also find Nara’s most celebrated shrine known as “Kasuga Taisha” or “Kasuga Grand Shrine.” It is a place dedicated to the deity responsible for providing protection among the Japanese.
Visiting the shrine is free even if you go beyond the offering hall. However, if you want to take a closer look, you’ll be paying an inner area fee which will give you a chance to admire the shrine’s inner building. It is very popular for lanterns which have been donated by many worshipers over time. They are only lit twice a year during Lantern Festivals in February and August.
If you travel farther down the woods of Kasuga Taisha, you’ll see smaller auxiliary shrines which are also dedicated to their Gods. Twelve of these can be found along the path. One of them is Wakayama Shrine, which promotes local dance culture by holding festivals. Another is Meoto Daikokusha, which is renowned for the deities of marriage. Prayers offered here are mostly for fortune in matters of love. The “ema” or wooden tablets here are drawn in the shape of a heart and you can see them stacked up high upon approaching the shrine.