If You Go
WHERE TO STAY Guesthouse Sakuraya 1 Narukawacho 011-81-742-24-1490 guesthouse-sakuraya.com
This is a traditional Japanese guesthouse with three rooms to rent, each with futons and tatami mats. Japanese breakfast (fish and rice) included; continental breakfast must be ordered in advance. Rooms are good-sized and have a newly remodeled show area, but no private bath. Tea is served throughout the day in the communal visiting area. Rates: $54 to $64 per person per night.
WHERE TO EAT Washokuya Happoh 22 Higashimuki-Nakamachi (inside the Higashimuki Shopping Mall) 011-81-742-26-4834
Cozy family-style locale serving comfort food like thick udon noodle soup and karaage (deepfried chicken). There is also an extensive sake list. Lunch from $6 to $9, dinner $3 to $12.
WHAT TO DO Nara Park South of Noborioji Street 011-81-742-27-8036 The idyllic park area in the city’s northeast, where more than 1,000 tame – even affectionate – deer roam among landmark temples. Highlights include i-ji temple, a grand, wooden edifice that houses a 500-ton Buddha statue. Visitors must enter 30 minutes before closing. Admission $8; $2.60 for children.
Ise Jingu Ujitachicho, Ise, Mie Prefecture 011-81-596-24-1111 isejingu.or.jp/en/index.html From Nara, leave at dawn to catch the various trains to this sprawling shrine complex often referred to as Japan’s Vatican. The shrines themselves are austere and hard to see from the pathways. Pick up a map at the Ise Tourist Information Center, located about a 10-minute walk from the Ise train station. Shrines are open from dawn to dusk, year-round. Free entry.
INFORMATION It is worth buying a Japan Rail Pass in advance to save time and money while traveling within the country. Visitors must book tickets from outside Japan at japan-railpass.com. Depending on duration of use, the current exchange rate and type of pass, prices range from $19 to $227.