Just to the east of Nara Park, the narrow, winding streets of traditional merchant houses now host sweet shops, modern art galleries, hip cafes and boutique ryokan. With shops like Yu Nakagawa, Naramachi is a great place to find contemporary Nara crafts and stylish souvenirs. The whole area is compact and easy to cover on foot. Alongside Nara Park and Nishinokyo, Naramachi is one of Nara City's main draws.
In the heart of Naramachi is Gangoji Temple, Japan’s oldest Buddhist temple, first built in Asuka but relocated here around 718 AD. Fires during the 15th and 19th centuries destroyed many of the original structures and the need for more residential space gradually diminished the temple’s influence and size.
Wandering the back streets and getting a little lost is the best way to explore Naramachi. Sarusawa Pond is a good landmark; it has beautiful views, tree-shaded seating and a large tourist information centre, Nara Visitor Centre & Inn, which offers a range of cultural experiences including calligraphy and origami.
On Shimomikado Street in the heart of Naramachi, Nakanishi Yosaburo has been a fixture for over 150 years, making wagashi for tea ceremonies. One popular sweet mimics the strings of Naramachi amulets, called “migawarisaru," or scapegoat monkeys, which hang from the eaves of houses to protect the residents.
Nara is renowned for its sake, and Harushika Sake Imanishi Seibei Store is a good place to learn about the brewing process. You can tour the brewery and the family’s historic residence and gardens, taste different varieties or drop by the cafe and shop.
Guesthouses & Hostels
Guesthouses & Hostels
Guesthouses & Hostels
Nara Craft Museum
Arts & Crafts
The Naramachi district was originally the grounds of Gangoji Temple, till demand for housing took over. Dating to the Edo era, the machiya or townhouses in the area are very different to other towns, such as Imaicho. Taxes were levied according to the frontage of the house, so they were built narrow at the front.
Since the Edo era, strings of red and white silk shapes have been hung from the eaves of houses in the Naramachi district. These migawarisaru, or scapegoat monkeys, protect the residents. They make for unique souvenirs. You can hang one for each family member, and write wishes on their backs.
At the top of Sanjo-dori Street, Sarusawa Pond is a man-made pond, dating back to 749 as part of Kohfukuji Temple. There is a legend that a court lady in the Nara era drowned herself in the pond after falling out of favour with the Emperor.
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Good to Know
Best Time to Go
During the hot summer season, the cool interiors of the shops and old townhouses in Naramachi offer visitors a welcome respite. Likewise, on cold winter days and during wet weather, the shops throughout the area offer shelter and the opportunity to pick up some unique mementos of your trip. Exploring the narrow streets of Naramachi is an enjoyable experience in any season.
Concentrated in a small area approximately one kilometre in diameter, Naramachi is easily covered on foot. The nearest train station is the Kintetsu-Nara Station, and buses to other areas of the city can be caught from any of the main roads that run along the perimeter of the neighbourhood.
Naramachi is a complex grid of narrow streets. Much of the fun of exploring the area lies in wandering about and taking turns at will. That being said, returning to a shop that caught your eye a few hours earlier can sometimes be a feat. It's worth picking up a map of the area from nearby Nara Visitor Center & Inn to make a note of any interesting finds you make.
Getting to Naramachi
Naramachi is a short walk south of Kintetsu-Nara Station. It can also be accessed on foot from JR Nara Station, taking roughly 20 minutes. If the walk doesn't appeal, Nara City Loop Line, Central Loop Line and Gurutto buses as well as other buses bound for Nara Hotel/Gangoji Temple make stops in and around the Naramachi area.