Getting Around on 2 Wheels: Renting a Bicycle in Nara
As much of Nara is flat and its attractions fairly spread out, it makes sense to rent a bicycle, especially in areas like Asuka and Kashihara. Most rental shops have bicycles for elementary school age children, up to adults. Electric assist bicycles are a good option for hilly areas.
Remember to ride on the left side, wear a helmet and watch for traffic. Although crime is rare, it’s a good idea to lock your bicycle when you park it. Most rental shops require you to return the bicycles by around 5pm; some allow you to drop it at a different location.
Asuka and Kashihara are ideal for cycling, with scenic cycle paths and less traffic. Asuka’s attractions, like the Ishibutai Tumulus and Asukadera Temple, are fairly spread out and far from the station, making cycling a great way to get around.
The spectacular terraced rice fields around Inabuchi are an easy 10 minutes ride from the Ishibutai Tumulus or 20 minutes from Asuka Station. Just look out for the parked cars and street stalls leading into the village, marking the best view points.
You can walk inside this ancient stone tomb from the Asuka period, capped with a 75 tonne roof. In spring, the area is ringed with cherry blossom trees. It’s about 15 minutes ride from Asuka Station. You can also visit Asukadera Temple and Okadera Temple nearby.
To the north of Asuka, Kashihara is dominated by a grand shrine, dedicated to Japan’s first emperor, Jimmu. Nearby are the vast ruins of Fujiwara Palace and a little further north, the preserved Edo merchant town of Imaicho has a very different atmosphere.
There are several bike rental shops right at Kashiharajingu-mae Station, making this grand shrine a convenient first stop. The roads are wide and flat, for easy riding. About 20 minutes further north, you’ll come to Imaicho, a charming Edo-period town laid in a grid pattern, that makes for easy riding.
Not far from Kashihara Jingu Shrine, the former Fujiwara Palace is marked by red pillars, but most visitors are drawn by the beautiful fields of flowers in spring and early autumn.
Close to Nara Park, this area is home to several World Heritage sites including Yakushiji Temple and Toshodaiji Temple, linked by a riverside cycle path. The landscape is wide and fairly flat, dotted with mysterious keyhole-shaped kofun tombs, surrounded by water.
An easy ride downhill from Nara Park, the former Imperial Palace site is surrounded by lush parklands with walking and cycling paths. There are several dedicated bicycle parking shelters.
Where to Rent a Bicycle
Handy for the sites of Nara Park, Nara Rent-a-Cycle near Kintetsu Nara station will rent you a bicycle for several days if you have a secure parking area at your hotel. Unlike smaller rental shops, they can also answer your queries in English or Chinese.
It's also worth checking if your hotel or ryokan offers bicycle rental. Many of the guesthouses around Naramachi rent bicycles by the day, as does Hotel Nikko Nara.
Asuka Rent-a-Cycle has two shops, next to Kashiharajingu-mae Station and Asuka Station; you can pick up from one and drop off at the other. They also have an English website and a good local map. Best of all, they’ll come and pick you up if you run into trouble.
Kintetsu Sunflower Rent-a-Cycle in front of Kashiharajingu-mae Station is handy for Kashihara Jingu Shrine and Imaicho. They can usually cater for large groups. They also have a branch next to Sakurai Station.
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