Though little is left of its original palaces and temples, Asuka is at the centre of Japan’s history as the home of the first emperor and the roots of Buddhism. Now, its natural assets draw visitors: rolling hills and terraced rice paddies that hark back to simpler times. Gazing across the rich green fields acts as an instant de-stressor.
Asukadera Temple was Japan’s first full scale Buddhist institution, housing the nation’s oldest Buddha statue. Much of the temple was moved to Naramachi when Nara became Japan’s first capital city and it is now overshadowed by Okadera Temple, with its commanding views over the area and spectacular autumn colours.
With quiet, level roads, renting a bicycle is a good option for getting around this rural area, especially as the features of Asuka are quite spread out. There are impressive megaliths similar to those scattered across Europe; some, like Ishibutai Tumulus are tombs, others such as Kameishi Tortoise Stone, remain mysterious.
To really unwind, stay locally. Shinrajuku, originally a small school, is now a traditional guesthouse set in the rice fields and an easy walk to sites like Asuka Historical Museum where local archeological finds are on display.
If only visiting the area for a day, don't miss out on a soak in the soothing waters at Asuka-no-Yu Onsen. This comprehensive hot spring and relaxation facility attracts both weary tourists and locals alike. After a full day of sightseeing, your swollen feet will thank you.
Things to See & Do
Asuka Grape Farm
Activities & Experiences
Asuka Historical Museum
History & Culture
History & Culture
Restaurants & Cafes
Festivals & Events
Ishibutai Tumulus Cherry Blossoms by Night
Okadera Autumn Leaves
Asuka Ruby Strawberries
The Asuka Ruby, is a variety of strawberry cultivated in Nara’s Asuka region. Named after the gemstone for their ruby red flesh, the plump berries are renowned for balancing sweetness with acidity. Thanks to greenhouses, they are in season from January to May, with many pick-your-own opportunities at local farms.
So (Ancient Cheese)
With the introduction of Buddhism, Emperor Tenmu forbade the eating of meat in 675. Instead, a simple cheese was developed as an acceptable protein. It is believed that So may have come from Mongolia along the Silk Road. Made without any additives, it tastes a little like caramel. Learn more about Nara's unique cuisine.
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Good to Know
Best Time to Go
With terraced rice fields and rolling hills coloured in vibrant hues of green, summer is an excellent time to explore Asuka. For those planning to cycle the area, autumn may offer a more agreeable climate. Rice paddies also turn a beautiful burnt golden colour in this season. If visiting in spring, don't miss the cherry blossom at Ishibutai Tumulus.
Renting a bicycle is a leisurely way to take in the sights. Asuka Rental Cycle has several branches and visitors can return bicycles to any of them. The Akakame Loop Bus is another easy way to get around with one-day passes available. Groups may want to consider taking taxis, which can be caught from one of the nearby train stations. Tourist information offices like Nara Visitor Center & Inn can help arrange taxi charter, too.
Although certain attractions are within walking distance of one another, renting a bicycle or making use of the local bus service is the best way to use time effectively. If you do decide to explore on two wheels, consider an electric battery-powered bicycle for help with some of the hills.
With a wide range of things to see and do in Asuka alone, and additional options such as Kashihara Jingu Shrine and Imaicho in neighbouring Kashihara, a half-day trip will leave you feeling like you've missed out. To cover everything, set aside a full day or stay overnight.
Getting to Asuka
Asuka Station is one of several stations in the area and the most centrally located. It can be reached on the Kintetsu Line in around an hour. Depending on where you want to visit, Okadera or Kashiharajingu-mae stations may be more convenient.