The Many faces of Nara

The Kumano Kodo links the famous Yoshino area in Nara Prefecture with Kumano
via Mount Omine. The 170km trek, which has been used as a training ground for
ascetic monks since the 7th century, is one of the most difficult and dangerous
trails of the Kumano Kodo, but there many less strenuous activities to enjoy.
Yoshino Mountain features more than 30,000 cherry trees which form clouds of
delicate pink blossoms in the spring. The area is also home to the famous Kinpusen-
ji temple and the esoteric monks who train there.

A Walk in the Park

Nara city, originally known as Heijo, was established as Japan’s first permanent
capital in 710.

Nara’s Todaiji temple, constructed in 752, is home to a 15 metre high seated
Buddha whose raised hand is as tall as a human being. As with many of Nara’s
attractions, Todaiji is located in Nara Park, which is also home to over 1200 deer. In Japanese folklore deer were considered to be sacred and they are certainly still
well treated, with many visitors feeding them on specially made rice crackers
called ‘shika senbei’ or deer crackers.

Narazuke and other Culinary Delights

In Nara, it is not only the deer which enjoy the culinary delights on offer.
Visitors to Nara can try Narazuke, a dish made by pickling vegetables or fish in sake lees, a much more sophisticated affair than the vinegary pickles which most Australians have grown up with.

Other local delicacies include Kaki no hazushi or Nara sushi, neat little packages
of rice topped with salmon or mackerel and wrapped in a persimmon leaf. The
antibacterial properties of the leaf were an important preservative in the days
before refrigeration.