There is a lot more to Nara than just Nara Park with its famous temples and its hordes of tourists being enthralled by the deer. If you prefer to venture a bit off the beaten track there is this rather unique walk that even the most seasoned visitor of Japan hasn’t done yet: From the beautiful Yagyū no sato (柳生の里) area east of Nara, the Takisaka-no-michi is a 12km, 3 hours walk from Enjō-ji Temple to Nara Park.
Take the bus from Nara JR Station to Enjō-ji Temple, ask the tourist information at the station for bus number and pick up a Nara Bus Pass as the trip is covered by the pass. Enjō-ji Temple is already worth the trip, but once you’re done there, take the footpath that starts on the other side of the road via which you arrived. You’re now on the Takisaka-no-michi which first leads up gently and then descends towards Nara past tea fields, a tea house (a stop here is recommended!), Ojizō-sama statues and plenty of rock carvings of monks and Ojizō-sama.
The walk is easy and doesn’t require any particular skills or any particular fitness. If you have a look at the map provided by the tourist board, you will notice a loop just past the halfway point: if you turn left here there is a little more climbing to be done through a gorge with some beautiful rock carvings, but if you would like to take it easy, just continue and both routes will join again a little later.
What I particularly liked about this walk was that it led through so many different landscapes: First meandering over the tops of the mountains, then down into a rural valley with farms and the tea harvest in progress. A little further the landscape changed again dramatically when we descended into the gorge and crossed the river over tiny bridges. After we left the gorge and entered the forest again, we eventually joined a river again and the unpaved footpath changed into a flagstone paved path that must have been important and probably filled with pilgrims in the past. The path eventually led us back to Nara.
The walk was quiet, we met a few Japanese tourists and didn’t run into the crowds again until we entered Nara Park. None of the people in the crowd seemed to sense that there was so much more to be enjoyed in Nara.