Nara

45 minutes on the express local train from Osaka brings you to the town of Nara, capital of Japan prior to Kyoto in 794AD.

Nara is home to two principal attractions: the Todai-ji (in the town itself) and Horyu-ji (around 10km) away. These two temples/shrines would be worth seeing anyway but that they also house the largest and oldest (respectively) wooden structures in the world make them – and the town of Nara – a must-see.

Nara appears a typical Japanese town – garish shops, noisy Pachinko parlours and messy overhead cables – providing little evidence of the treasures and havens of tranquillity therein.

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Of course, being a typical Japanese town, it has at least two train stations, numerous bus lines (including a very handy loop line) which all run on time and cheap and delicious food on every corner…