City of Nara

The city of Nara is located in the south of the Honshu island in Japan’s Nara Prefecture, which directly borders Kyoto Prefecture. Nara city has about 360,000 inhabitants, and is an easy day trip from the much larger cities of Osaka and Kyoto. After the capital was moved to Nara in 710, many temples and shrines were built there under the guidance of the imperial family and aristocrats. This is why the city has such beautiful treasures of traditional architecture, temples and artwork. Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital from AD 710 to 794.

One of the most popular sights of Nara is Nara Park, which is famous for its freely roaming deer at the site of Todai-ji temple. They are extremely friendly, used to visitors feeding them, and are regarded as messengers from the gods. The 15m-high Nara Great Buddha made of copper and gold is displayed in the Daibutsu (Great Buddha Hall) at Todai-ji, the world's largest wooden structure.

Various Buddhist statues can be found at Horyu-ji Temple as well. Kasuga-taisha, the Shinto shrine that was founded in 768 C.E., has 3,000-plus lanterns. Several historical sites have been registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List as “Historical Monuments of Ancient Nara”. You will get to see two of the most famous temples on the symposium’s Excursion. To get more information about the must-see sightseeing spots in the city, you can visit the webpage:

Nara’s Gastronomy

The local gastronomy is varied and gives important insights into Nara’s culture. Please note that most Nara restaurants take CASH ONLY and the locals dine early, so last orders are often taken between 7:30 and 8 pm.

Along Sanjo-dori, you will find a range of establishments, including traditional restaurants and cafes with appetizing dishes. Nara possesses its own brand of kaiseki, or traditional multi-course meal, as Kyoto. You will find a list of cafe and restaurant suggestions in Nara provided below. If you want to get more restaurant names or extended information about them, you can check out Trip Advisor for the best restaurants in Nara as voted by tourists.

It is said that chagayu (green tea rice gruel) originated as the staple food of priests at Todaiji and Kofukuji. Over time it became a household breakfast favorite, and today it has grown into a traditional food popular with locals and tourists alike. Although it is a simple dish made just by cooking rice in tea, chagayu is profoundly fragrant and refreshing.

Another specialty born of Nara's long history and favorable climate is kaki-no-ha zushi (persimmon leaf sushi). A local dish of southern Nara, it consists of vinegared rice topped with mackerel or salmon and wrapped in a persimmon leaf. The aroma of the persimmon leaf gives the sushi a mellow flavor. Mikasa-yaki is a great way to round off a meal. Consisting of mildly sweet azuki bean paste sandwiched between two fluffy pancakes made with flour, egg, water, and other ingredients, the giant dessert is sure to prove a hit with sweet-toothed visitors. Some mikasa-yaki can measure as much as 35cm in diameter.

  1. Isuien Sanshyu: Eel. Isuien Garden, North of Nara Park, Nara. It's a beautiful place to have a traditional meal. The restaurant is in a thatched-roof house and there are high observation places from where you can view the Isuien garden and pond.
  2. Kasuga Grand Shrine. Kasuga Grand Shrine in Nara. Going vegetarian. This restaurant offers vegetarian meal as hot porridge and an assortment of vegetables, the service is in the gardens of the shrine. The environment is peaceful and the food is healthy.
  3. Nakatanido. 29 Hashimoto-cho, Nara. Yomogi Dango "Rice Dumpling". The restaurant offers the popular Yomogi dango (Rice dumpling with Yomogi taste) 130 yen per portion.
  4. Hiraso. 30-1 Imamikadocho, Nara. Come here to try "kaki no ha zushi," a Nara sushi specialty. The sushi is made by placing slices of salted mackerel or salmon on sushi rice, wrapping it in preservative persimmon leaves, and pressing it.
  5. Shizuka. 59-11 Noborioji-cho, Nara-kōen, Nara. This much loved, low-key local shop across from Nara Park and near Todaiji Temple is best known for its kamameshi, rice in a small metal pot and topped with other ingredients.
  6. Mellow Café. 1-8 Konishicho, unit1F, Nara. Great casual place for lunch. Much of the menu is Italian, including pasta and pizza and it is good for those who feel like a break from Japanese cuisine.
  7. Harishin. 15 Nakashima-cho. Traditional Set-Menu. This restaurant only offers a mini-kaiseki meal and a set-menu, both of which change with the season. Everything is delicious and beautifully presented. The restaurant is situated in a beautiful part of town near Gangoji Temple.
  8. Steak Ciel Bleu. 470 Sanjocho | 2F Kiraboshi Bldg., Nara. Delicious Kobe steak, seafood and French cuisine in Nara.
  9. Sakura Burger. 6 Higashimuki Kitamachi, Nara. A burger shop located across Kintetsu Nara Station. It is one of the best places to go for a burger in Nara as well as hot sandwiches and hot dogs.
  10. Maguro Koya. 6 Hanashibacho | 1F Hanashibacho Heights, Nara. It is located in a small district which is directly north of Kintetsu Nara Station. It has been serving delicious maguro tuna done in variety of ways which has become a big hit in the area. The small restaurant concentrates on one item, maguro.

Nara’s Tourism Offices

Nara Tourist Information Center Okumura Memorial Hall 1st floor (the north side of Nara National Museum)
4 Kasugano-cho, Nara City 0742-27-2003
Open everyday from 10:00-17:00, except on the third Tuesdays of Jan., Feb., June, July, Sep. and Dec.
Tourist Information Bureau in Kintetsu Nara Station 1st floor, Kintetsu Nara Station Building
28 Higashimukinaka-machi, Nara City 0742-24-4858
Nara Information Center At the intersection of Sanjo-dori Street and Yasuragi-no-michi Street
24-3 Kami-Sanjo-cho, Nara City 0742-22-5595
Tourist Information Bureau in JR Nara Station In the JR Nara Station
1-1 Sanjo-Honmachi, Nara City 0742-22-9821

For further touristic information, you can visit the site of the “Nara City Sightseeing Information Center”

Internet and Wi-Fi access

Despite Japan’s high internet usage rate, there are very few open wireless networks, even in the large cities. And if you do manage to connect, you are typically routed to a login page for a pay-to-use service – written only in Japanese.

There will be Internet WiFi provided at the Nara Kasugano International Forum. If you will be needing Internet outside of the conference, there are a variety of ways to stay connected while in Japan. The majority of hotels offer free Internet in their guest rooms or in the lobby. A few hotels, usually Western ones, charge for Internet access based on 24 hour periods. In traditional Japanese hotels, or ryokans, you are likely to find Internet in the lobby, but not in the room.

Both paid and free Wi-Fi hotspots are available in Japan. Laptops and mobile devices can connect to publicly accessible hotspots found around airports, train stations, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and bars.

Free Wi-Fi: International airports, major railway stations, selected coffee (Starbucks), fast food and convenience store chains (7-Eleven, Lawson, Family Mart) and many tourist information desks. Networks vary widely from easy-to-use ones to others that require toilsome advance registrations. Consider downloading smartphone apps that will help you locate and use free access hotspots (eg. Travel Japan Wi-Fi, Japan Connected-Free Wi-Fi and Free Wi-Fi Passport).

Paid Wi-Fi: A few of the major networks may allow paid, short-term access on an hourly, daily or weekly basis (docomo Wi-Fi, Wi2, Softbank Wi-Fi Spot, Skype WiFi).

You may, also, consider getting an Unlimited Japan Pocket Wi-Fi rental. It is essentially a portable Wi-Fi hotspot that you can connect multiple devices to. You can rent it at the airport or a mobile company that offers such a service (eg. Sakura Mobile). Also, you can consider a rental smartphone, USB modem or rental/prepaid SIM cards (device must not be linked to a specific provider).