The romance of Nara is in its stillness. Experience beautiful gardens, changing seasons and dramatic sunsets without the crowds. Hiking together through the wilderness to a private onsen or meandering through the winding streets of Naramachi; it’s about the quality of time together, uninterrupted and unhurried.
The geography of Nara, with gentle mountains encircling a flat basin, lends itself to stunning sunset views. Around Nara Park, there are several uncrowded viewpoints. The Nara Prefectural Office has a “secret” rooftop looking over the whole city. Rising behind Todaiji Temple, Mt. Wakakusa is the perfect spot to see the sunset and the glittering night lights.
Take a walk after dark and enjoy lantern-lit forest paths and illuminated temples. In February, Nara Rurie lights up the week around Valentine’s Day. The main temples around Nara Park are lit up each night during the event, and stalls sell hot cocoa to keep you warm as you stroll.
Kasugataisha Shrine has held light up events in February and August called Mantoro, for over 800 years. Wander the forest paths illuminated only by stone lanterns, and head towards the shrine, softly lit by the flickering candles of hundreds of hanging bronze lanterns.
Nara Park is beautiful at any time of year, and Ukimido, a hexagonal pavilion in the lake, is beautiful around sunset. In early August each year, it is lit up with hundreds of candles, for an ethereal, fairytale atmosphere. Nearby, Sarusawa Pond reflects the pagoda of Kohfukuji Temple on its mirror-like surface.
Naramachi and the narrow streets that run off Sanjo-dori Street are home to intimate dining spaces and bars. From grand dining rooms to elegant Japanese restaurants with private dining spaces to low-lit whiskey bars, there are beautiful, atmospheric options for any occasion.
The Nara Hotel, which has hosted royal guests and Hollywood royalty like Audrey Hepburn, retains a romantic, old-world atmosphere, especially in its elegant, wood paneled bar, straight out of a classic film noir. Off Sanjo-dori Street, Lamp Bar is intimate and dark, with perfect service and innovative cocktails until the early hours.
Around Mt. Yoshino, there are many magical spots to see the cherry blossoms, but the ultimate way to see them is from an outdoor hot spring. Many ryokan in the Yoshinoyama area offer rooms with a private outdoor bath. Alternatively, enjoy one of the numerous baths open to the public at a ryokan like Sakoya. In spring and autumn, the trees around Yoshinoyama are illuminated, and couples walk hand-in-hand, in colourful kimono and cotton yukata.