Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture located in the Kansai region of Japan. There are a total of eight temples, shrines, and ruins in Nara that are collectively known as the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara. Out of the eight, we picked three temples to visit along with a visit to Isuien Garden.
As soon as you get out of JR Nara Station, you are greeted by such a picturesque city. Almost all of the places to see are within walking distance (aka a long walk) from the train stations. You wouldn’t even get tired as long as you walk along Sanjo Dori which offers an assortment of restaurants and souvenir shops. What’s great about Nara is you don’t need to go to Nara Park to see the deer! On our walk towards Isuien Garden, there were already deer freely roaming around!
Nara Park is home to hundreds of freely roaming deer. Considered in Shinto to be messengers of the gods, Nara’s nearly 1200 deer have become a symbol of the city and have even been designated as a natural treasure. –Japan Guide
We only had one garden in mind for Nara but Yoshikien Garden was right beside Isuien Garden and it was free! We decided to take a peek inside Yoshikien Garden before heading to the more famous Isuien Garden.
Yoshikien is a pleasant Japanese garden located in central Nara. It is named after the Yoshikigawa River, a small river that runs beside the garden, and was built on the site of Kofukuji Temple’s former priest residences. There are three unique gardens within Yoshikien: a pond garden, a moss garden and a tea ceremony garden. So, a visit to Yoshikien provides the opportunity to see three different variations of Japanese gardens in one spot. –Japan Guide
Yoshikien Garden is pretty small but it was still a sight to see. I love how Japanese gardens give off such a serene vibe. You can literally stay inside forever and let time pass (which we did)! From inside Yoshikien Garden, you can see Isuien Garden. In comparison, Isuien is bigger, more famous, and has a richer history.
Isuien is an attractive Japanese garden with a variety of features, such as the use of Todaiji Temple’s Nandaimon Gate and Mount Wakakusayama as “borrowed scenery”. Isuien means “garden founded on water”, and the garden’s name is derived from the fact that its ponds are fed by the small adjacent Yoshikigawa River. Isuien is divided into two parts, a front garden and a rear garden, with a number of tea houses scattered throughout. The front garden has a longer history, dating back to the mid 17th century. The rear garden, the larger of the two, is more recent and was built in 1899 by a wealthy merchant. –Japan Guide
Visiting these two gardens were a perfect way to start of our Nara trip! I knew we had a trip close to nature ahead of us but seeing these two gardens first made us more excited to see what Nara had to offer.