Explore the old town of Imaicho, an ancient Buddhist temple and the quaint country town of Asuka in this one-day walking and cycling tour in Nara Prefecture.
When you think of Nara Prefecture, the famous deer park in Nara City probably immediately pops into your mind. That is where most tourists visit, the deer park and giant Buddha of Todai-ji on a day trip from Kyoto. Nara has so much more to offer though and we encourage our guests to venture off the tourist path and into a more authentic and less-travelled side of Japan. This tour will introduce to three places in Nara Prefecture – Imaicho, Kashihara Shrine and Asuka.
1) Meet at Yamato-Yagi Station (9:00)
Meet your guide at the station. There are lockers to leave your baggage if necessary.
2) Walk to and stroll around Imaicho (9:10-10:15)
Imaicho is a preserved old town with over 500 historic buildings from the Edo Period. It is one of the largest scale old-fashioned districts you will find in Japan, with a quiet authentic feel. You are more likely to see a lone retiree painting the landscape than you are hordes of tourists. The little streets branch off one another like a labyrinth, with few signs of modern life inside.
Imaicho began as a temple town centering around Shonenji Temple, before becoming a flourishing merchant town. For this reason you will see many affluent looking houses made with elaborate tiled roofs.
During your time in Imaicho you will stroll the streets and step back in time to the Edo era, visiting several old residences that have been opened to the public. These include the Imanishi Residence, the richest and most impressive house of all. There is also Imai Machiya Museum, a restored merchant house and Kometani, an old hardware store, which are open to anyone. You will briefly stop in at the Hanairaka information center to see a model of the town along with historical photographs.
You will also stop by the Kawai Sake Brewery, a family run for generations sake brewery that has been featured in a Japanese period drama. You can taste the sake for free and enjoy the old-fashioned feel of the shop. Of course you can also enter any shop that strikes your interest, such as the local soy sauce brewery (Tsuneoka Brewery) that has been in operation since 1909. You will find a variety of local foods being sold such as homemade cola and handmade cherry ice cream.
3) Kashihara Jingu (10:30-11:30)
You will take the train for five minutes to Kashihara-Jingumae Station and walk from there to the shrine. Kashihara Jingu is a fairly new shrine, having been built in 1890, but do not let that detract you - it is not to be missed. The shrine sits on the site where Jimmu, the “first Emperor” of Japan, is said to have ascended to the throne in 660 BC, at the base of sacred mountain Mt. Unebi. In Japanese mythology Jinmu is believed to be a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu. The shrine exudes serenity and peacefulness and is also extremely photogenic, you’ll definitely want to take a plenty of photos here. If you thought Meiji Jingu was good, then you will like Kashihara Shrine even more.
4) Lunch (12:00-13:00)
You will take the train for five minutes to Asuka Station and stop for lunch. We suggest the Matsuyama Café which is located in an old kominka house and sells a variety of cakes and hearty dishes made with local ingredients. You can discuss with your guide if you have different preferences.
5) Asuka (13:00-16:00)
First you will collect your rental bicycles. Kid’s bikes and bikes with child seats are available. *If you do not wish to cycle, please let us know in advance in order to make other arrangements.
Asuka can be considered the origins of Japanese society. It is where the first emperors established their capitals and is an archeologists dream, littered with ancient tombs, monuments and shrines and temples. Long before Kyoto was the capital, before even Nara City ruled, the areas of Asuka and Sakurai were the center of power in Japan. You will cycle around this now quiet, quaint and rural town, visiting many historical sites along the way, all the while enjoying the greenery and nature of countryside Nara.
Some of the places you will visit:
This small temple is considered to be Japan's oldest Buddhist temple. It is located amongst farmland in the town of Asuka, it is a simple, local temple with a very countryside feel.
Opening hours: 9:00-17:30（Apr to Sep）/ 9:00-17:00（Oct to Mar）
Closed: Apr 7 to Apr 9
The Complex of Manyo Culture
The Complex of Manyo Culture is a free museum which contains two rooms, one evolving exhibit and one permanent exhibit which features lifesize displays and is quite interactive. It even has a "relaxation room" which takes you on a journey through the four seasons.
Opening hours: 10:00-17:30
Ishibutai Burial Mound
An ancient burial mound and the largest megalithic structure in Japan. It is believed that the man buried here was the head of the powerful Soga clan, Soga no Umako, who worked with Prince Shotoku and spread the influence of Buddhism in Japan.
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Closed: Open all year round
An ancient tomb from the 7th Century dedicated to a Japanese royal. The burial chamber contains painted walls, a snapshot into the history of that time.
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Closed: Dec 29 to Jan 3
Inukai Manyo Memorial Hall
A facility dedicated to the Man'yoshu, the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry. It has a teahouse with an outdoor terrace where you can stop for a drink.
Opening hours: 10:00-17:00
A beautiful temple overlooking Asuka. It is said that a dragon protects this temple and warns locals of approaching rain by wobbling and shaking a stone.
Opening hours: 8:00-16:30（Dec to Feb）/ 8:00-17:00（Mar to Nov）
Closed: Open all year round
5) Return to Asuka Station (16:00)
The tour will end at Asuka Station.
• Cycle around the Japanese countryside in Asuka, a historian’s paradise
• Step back in time while strolling around the completely preserved old town of Imaicho
• See a majestic temple in Kashihara, where the first emperor ascended the throne
• Dine inside a restored “kominka” house (Japanese folk house)
• Get off the beaten track and discover the “real Japan” in Nara, the place of the gods.
• If you wish us to arrange hotel pick up and drop off, please inform us by email
• This tour will involve walking and cycling. If you don't wish to cycle, please inform us when booking.
• Please wear suitable clothes and footwear.
• In the case of poor weather, this tour is subject to cancellation.
|Price||From ¥14,000 / person
¥32,000 for a 1 person, private tour
|Duration||7 hours (approx.)|
|Hours of availability||
9:00am - 16:00pm
• Rental bicycles
• Train fees
Yamato-Yagi Station at the ticket gate