Home > Tours > Nara > Old towns and Mystical Temples in Ancient Nara, Japan's First Capital

Old towns and Mystical Temples in Ancient Nara, Japan's First Capital

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.

Overview

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.

IMG_20210408_132603.jpg2) 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.

IMG_20210408_132400.jpg

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.

8126ea43782744a2d52f20f3038689c0952ea81a.jpg3) 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.

5ed31d628d85e71a08a461c8d39e7f94c5a4fa0f.jpg5) 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:

fd1659580127dbd2d3e9b9d2ff27138886acc725.jpg

Asukadera Temple
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.
Manyokan
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.
Ishibutai Burial Mound
An ancient burial mound and the largest megalithic structure in Japan.
Takamatsuzuka Tomb
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.
Inukai Man'yo 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.
Okadera Temple
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.

5) Return to Asuka Station (16:00)
The tour will end at Asuka Station.

Highlights

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.

Note

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.
We will run the tour rain or shine, but if the weather is too bad then we may need to cancel the tour

  Price From ¥10,000 per adult

¥20,000 for a 1 person, private tour
¥12,000 each for a tour of 2 adults
¥10,000 each for 3+ adults
¥6,000 for kids aged 6-12
Free for kids under 6

  Duration 7 hours (approx.)
  Hours of availability

9:00am - 16:00pm

  Inclusions

• Rental bicycles
• English speaking tour guide
• Entry to shrines/temples
• Entry to historical facilities in Imaicho

  Exclusions

• Train fees
• Rental locker
• Food and drink
• Hotel pick up/drop off

  Participants 1-6

Meeting Point

Yamato-Yagi Station at the ticket gate

Write a Review

  Name
  Country
  Star
  Title
  Review
  Tour photo