Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital city, has gracefully evolved into a tourists’ favorite. With eight UNESCO heritage sites and historical monuments nestled amid beautiful traditional gardens, this cultural gem is second only to Kyoto! Gentle strolls lead you past wisteria-laden streets graced by well-maintained old merchant houses from the Edo Period. Herds of friendly sika deer run amok in and outside Nara Park, occasionally approaching you for crackers. Nara is best known for the Daibutsu (Great Buddha), a fabulous centerpiece housed in the towering Tōdai-ji Temple. Nearby, the Shoryaku-ji Temple prides itself on being the birthplace of sake! Just outside the city, Mount Wakakusayama offers an impressive vantage of Nara, except during the annual festival in January when the grass is set on fire!