The Best Seasons to Travel to Nara
Nara has four distinctive seasons—all of which are suitable for travelling. Spring and autumn, however, are the prime seasons. People often choose to appreciate the plum blossoms from late February to early March, as well as the cherry blossoms from mid- or late March to mid-April. The magnificent autumn foliage in Kansai, on the other hand, occurs from mid-November to early December.
Seeing sakura dancing in spring
Starting mid-March, the entire country embraces the season for appreciating Japan’s cherry blossoms—and Nara is no exception. From Kasuga-taisha to Nara Park, and then to Heijokyo, appreciating sakura in Nara brings a classic charm. If you wish to stay away from the crowd and appreciate sakura dancing quietly, do not miss the cherry blossoms in full bloom beside Sahogawa River. In the daytime, you can see the sakura petals flowing with the river. Paper lanterns are hung on both sides of Sahogawa River during this season, and are lit at dusk.
Attending lantern show in summer night
The annual lantern and flower show in Nara is usually held from early to mid-August. During this time, the entire Nara Park and its surrounding areas are decorated with small lanterns made of thick bamboo tubes, which are put together into various lovely patterns. You can wear local yukata, walk along the bustling Higashimuki street, and then go to Sarusawa or climb to the Kofuku-ji Temple to pray and draw a divination stick for yourself and your loved ones.
Appreciating red leaves in autumn
The deep autumn in Kansai is characterized by the maple leaves. Like Kyoto, Nara is also a favorite place for appreciating the spectacular red leaves. In autumn, Nara Park is covered with fiery red leaves woven with yellow ginkgo leaves. Witnessing the deer running freely will complete the fairytale picture that autumn brings.
If you feel that you’ve already seen enough red leaves, miscanthus sinensis (Chinese silvergrass) in Nara is another sight to see. Miscanthus sinensis in Soni Kogen turns yellow in autumn, resulting in a stunning, picture-perfect golden plateau.
Praying for blessing in winter
If you come to Nara in the winter, you can experience the Hatsumode—or the first visit to a shrine for the Japanese New Year. On the eve of December 31st, Nara’s locals queue up in temples and shrines to pray for good fortune for the coming year. When the New Year arrives, the bell in Todai-ji will ring. In late January, you may also want to witness the grass burning ceremony on Mount Wakakusa. One theory claims that the fires were used to drive away wild boars, while another theory claims that the burning began during boundary conflicts between the great temples of Nara.