Osaka, the 2nd largest city in Japan after Tokyo, is known for its ultra modern buildings, 16th century castle and night food streets. Combined with the relaxed back in time feel of Nara - home of a largest giant Buddha, wild deer and towering 5-storey pagoda - makes for an interesting contrast of a visit.
Osaka Castle is one of Japan's most famous landmarks and it played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century of the Azuchi-Momoyama period.
Within this rebuilt castle, there is a good museum (part of entry into the castle, and crowded at peak periods) which describes the reunification of Japan. Look out for the famous painting of the Battle of Sekigahara.
The expansive castle grounds make for a good half a day out. Nice place to enjoy a picnic during hanami (cheery blossom) season.
Get tickets and take the elevator to the top, where you get to ride an external escalator to the top floors. This is a pretty unique experience!
There your will enter an internal viewing desk. Find the stairs to the external viewing deck outside. Spectacular!
See some very modern architecture in this huge shopping area.
Shinsaibashisuji Shopping Street
No end of shopping (and people!) here.
This image of a runner crossing a finishing line is a famous billboard here which says that you are in Osaka!
This is definitely a popular night time area. Head on in for some serious eye candy and check out the overhead signs and stores all along this stretch.
One of the area's most prominent features, a billboard for confectionery company Glico displaying the image of a runner crossing a finishing line, is seen as an icon of Osaka within Japan.
I stayed at this small hotel. It's tiny like most hotels in the central parts of the city. It is modern, clean and very handy to the central train stations.
Take a Rapid Express train (Kintetsu Nara Line) to Kintetsu Nara Station. It should take about 40 minutes for 560 yen.
From here on, pick up some deer food from the stores for the wild animals wandering around.
Nandaimon Gate of Tōdaiji
Pass through these huge gates.
This temple houses the famous Daibutsu, the largest Buddha statue in Japan and one of the largest in the world. The temple building housing the Daibutsu, is said to be the largest wooden building in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Enjoy a lunch picnic in this area. Great for kids too.
Over 1,200 wild sika deer freely roaming around in the park - which is classified as a natural treasure and one of Japan's "Places of Scenic Beauty".
Enjoy a leisurely stroll this Shinto shrine. Over three thousand stone lanterns line the way.
This shrine of the Fujiwara family was established in 768 CE and rebuilt several times over the centuries.
Enter the shrine area and see the many bronze lanterns that this shrine is famous for.
The shrine and the area around it is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The deer which roam freely around are believed to be sacred messengers of the Shinto gods that inhabit the shrine and surrounding mountainous terrain.
This used to be the family temple of the Fujiwara clan. Built in 710, at the height of Fujiwara power.
The five story pagoda here (originally built in 730) is Japan's second tallest - just shorter than the tallest, Toji Temple in Kyoto.
Hope you enjoyed your day in Nara!
Time to catch a Rapid Express train back bo Osaka.
If you are in the area, check out this bustling market which can get a little messy and crowded. Lots of market style knick knacks here.
Only if you happen to be in the area, this shrine has one of the strangest looking stage, in the form of a Japanese Lion!
For today, pick either to either visit (1) a world's largest Aquarium -or- (2) one of the last original towering castles left in Japan ..
Visit one of the largest public aquariums in the world!
The aquarium is about a five-minute walk from Osakako Station on the Osaka Municipal Subway Chūō Line, and is next to the Tempozan Ferris Wheel.
If you are a castle fanatic, you might want to afford the slightly pricey Shinkansen train ride out to Himeiji for the day - just to see this castle, which is still pretty much in its original form.
This castle is said to be virtually the last castle in Japan that still manages to tower over the surrounding skyscrapers and office buildings. It is a short (15 mins) walk from the train station -
The main keep allows only a limited number of visitors each day and the queues can be long. Best to head out there early in the day for this place. I was there in the afternoon last early-winter - no queues then!
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