The area around Toudaiji and the Deer Park in Nara is constantly packed. If you’re looking for something that is less crowded, don’t skip the beautiful Isuien Gardens.
One creative feature in Isuien Gardens is their use of stones tied with rope to indicate areas that guests should not enter. This is great. The stones are aesthetically pleasing, blend in with nature and the parks scenery, and are still easy to spot.
Isuen Garden is a short walk from Kintetsu Nara station. You can easily do the garden, Todaiji, and the nearby famous deer park in the same afternoon or morning.
There is also a nice little tea house in the garden where you can take of your shoes, sit on tatami, and enjoy some tea and traditional Japanese sweets (or soft cream).
Visiting Isuien shocked me into really feeling like I was “in Japan” again. It’s amazing how much the environment can change once you enter the garden grounds. As there were hardly any tourists when we went, it was quiet, free of any litter, and seemed that everything was in place. We were there in the morning and could hear what sounded like a bullfrog, and there were small bugs suspending themselves on top of the pond. Really a great environment. If you’re in Nara, don’t miss it!
Isuien Garden [Wikipedia]
Japan Guide: Isuien [Japan-Guide.com]