One goal I had for my time here in Japan was to embark on a weekend solo trip. Thanks to Japan’s transportation system, agreeable prices, and the normalcy of being alone, this trip was easily made possible. I wanted to share an overview of my experience!


I’d actually picked Nara as my travel destination before arriving to Japan. It’s smaller and quieter compared to cities like Tokyo and Osaka, so I knew navigating and creating an itinerary wouldn’t be difficult. Once upon a time the capital of Japan, Nara is known for its rich history, beautiful temples and shrines, and something unexpected: deer! More on that in a moment. Nara’s main attractions can be covered in a day, but I wanted to enjoy my weekend at a slower pace.

There are different ways to get around Japan; the fastest, most convenient is the Shinkansen. I planned to take a highway bus there and the Shinkansen back, but on the day of, I overslept my early bus. Thus sealed my fate for taking the bullet train both ways. Tickets can be pricey, but luckily, Nanzan’s Center for Japanese Studies office offers train ticket discounts at no extra cost which are worth taking advantage of!

Day 1: Saturday

The first thing I did when I arrived in Nara was treat myself to some kitsune udon from a small shop within the Higashimuki shopping arcade. After that, I was ready to go! Within walking distance was Kofuku-ji, a Buddhist temple that was one of the Seven Great Temples in Nara. I couldn’t take photos inside the main hall, but the exterior speaks for itself for how beautiful this place is.

I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the streets of Nara, and then shopping around the Higashimuki shopping arcade. For dinner I decided to take a break from Japanese cuisine to enjoy some Vietnamese food. I ordered bánh xèo, a savory ‘pancake’ filled with vegetables, shrimp, and pork; I definitely enjoyed every bite.

Day 2: Sunday

The next day I did a lot more proper sightseeing. First I went to Todai-ji, another one of the Seven Great Temples. The main hall hosts three statues of sitting Buddha, as well as other impressive statues and models of the temple grounds.

I spent the remainder of my afternoon sightseeing a few different nearby Shinto shrines, including Kasuga Taisha. I went to Nara at the same time that Shichi-go-san was happening, so there were a ton of families there taking photos and dressed in traditional kimono. After learning about its significance in my Japanese Society class, it was neat to see the tradition being practiced in person.

One of the things I looked forward to the most in Nara were the (in)famous Nara deer. As I walked around, I noticed very quickly that the deer are everywhere, and socialized to the point where they don’t flee around humans like the deer in the States do. They also don’t stop in the middle of the road when a car is approaching, instead waiting to cross. For about $1.40, you can buy a stack of crackers to feed to the deer, after which they’ll ‘bow’ to you. When they’re hungry they can get pushy or aggressive, but I was able to feed them during their down time. Most of them roam around Nara Park, which is a great place to enjoy an open space with close proximity to nearby shops.

Travel Advice

For those who plan to visit Japan, here are few points of advice that I followed whenever I traveled throughout the country!

  • Always have a (fully charged) portable phone charger on hand!! Outlets are not as common in public places
  • Choose trustworthy accommodations with reviews and a comprehensible website
  • Always carry plenty of cash (Some places simply don’t take credit card!)
  • Invest in an IC card to use for public transportation. They can be used as methods of payment in many stores!
  • Type / write / learn useful emergency phrases in the local language

Sadly this semester did not grant us CJS students any major breaks, unlike what I’m used to at Hope. Most of my trips spanned two weekend days, with most being cut short in the evenings to travel back to Nagoya. Still, I’ve been able to visit many different locations throughout Japan, and I will definitely be back!

Published by Grace Conant

Class of 2025 Majors | Global Studies, Japanese Minor | Spanish Program | IES Nagoya Direct Enrollment: Nanzan University Location | Nagoya, Japan

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