We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Lara, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Lara lives in Australia, and submitted the following report about Nara, Japan. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo travel rating: 2 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: Japanese, English
Reasons to Visit Nara, Japan
Nara, Japan is a beautiful, relaxing, and very safe destination, with friendly people–and friendly deer!–delicious food, stunning architecture, and fascinating ancient cultural attractions.
Nara is best known for its tame deer, which are entirely accustomed to being around people and will eat crackers right out of your hand. A particularly amusing sight that you can only see here is Japanese businessmen bowing to deer who will then bow back to them! It is illegal to hunt them, as the deer of Nara are considered to be sacred according to Japanese folklore. You'll see “deer crossing” signs everywhere, and locals certainly have to watch out as this small city boasts an estimated 1,200 of these adorable critters!
The Historical Monuments of Ancient Nara is a UNESCO World Heritage site, encompassing 8 places within Nara – temples, shrines, a palace, and the beautiful Kasugayama Forest. A stroll through this forest is perfectly safe alone, and it's an extremely spiritual experience.
The Japanese are known for their friendliness towards tourists, being curious about other cultures, and their willingness to help; they're also often well-traveled themselves. Unfortunately, they're also often shy about using their spoken English skills, but often will be able to read and write quite fluently, so bring a paper and pen and you should be able to get by just fine. In any case, as Nara receives many tourists, both Japanese and foreigners alike, attractions are very clearly signposted and tourist maps are readily available.
Public transport in the area is very accessible, and the shopping streets near the train station are full of “omiyage” (souvenir) stores for you to stock up on exquisite traditional gifts for your friends back home.
Accommodation in Nara can be quite expensive, but it's a stone's throw from Osaka, the largest city in the area, where there is no shortage of affordable accommodation for the solo traveler. You could even try one of Japan's famous capsule hotels, which are mostly gender-segregated and surprisingly comfortable.
Keep an eye out for “matsuri” (festivals) happening at the time of your visit – Nara hosts some of Japan's most ancient, and most exciting, festivals, including the Yamayaki fire festival where an entire hill is set ablaze. It's an extraordinarily beautiful experience that you will always remember.
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 3 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 2 (1 is easiest, 4 is most difficult)