Nara’s shrines and temples boast immaculate architecture and gorgeous landscapes as well as many opportunities to take part in traditional cultural activities, including zazen meditation, chanting, tea ceremony, and ink-making. Consider spending some time trying one of these activities for yourself. You’ll learn more about Japanese culture, and come out with your spirits refreshed.
Experience Ancient Nara through Hands-on Activities and Ritual
A Bowl of Matcha Tea at Jikoin Temple
Jikoin Temple has long been associated with tea and the traditional culture of tea ceremony. The 1,000 yen admission fee includes a bowl of matcha tea and traditional Japanese sweet. Slowly sip your tea while sitting on a tatami mat, looking out over the beautiful gardens. After tea, wander around the grounds and discover an immaculately manicured Zen garden.
Discover good luck in the dark at Shigisan Chogosonshi-ji Temple
Experience walking through Shigisan Chogosonshi-ji Temple’s ancient kaidan-meguri—a pitch-black tunnel. Visitors to the temple wander blindly through the darkness touching the walls in hope of putting their hands on a large iron lock. Those able to find the lock are granted good fortune. The entire journey takes around five minutes.
Zazen Meditation at Shigisan Gyokuzo-in Temple
In addition to offering traditional accommodations and amenities to guests, you can try traditional meditation at Shigisan Gyokuzo-in Temple. Among these is zazen, an ancient meditation technique in which participants sit atop mats on the floor, achieving a sense of mindfulness by focusing intently on their breath and posture. You’ll come out of the session feeling refreshed and with a renewed vigour for life.
Morning Services at Hasedera Temple
Get up bright and early and walk up the 399 steps to Hasedera Temple. Upon arriving at the top, head inside the main hall to experience the morning worship ritual. Monks chant energetically, reciting sutras, and beating Japanese taiko drums. Upon finishing services, the monks head out onto the wooden terrace to bow to the mountain dwelling deity. Join them for the mountain view, and see the Eleven-faced Kannon statue. At over 10 metres, it is the largest wooden statue in the country.
Gripped Sumi Experience (Ink Stick-making) at Kinkoen
Work alongside an experienced artisan at Kinkoen to create your very own ink stick. Known as Nara Sumi, this ink-making technique started 1,300 years ago and the practice carries on in Nara to this day. Watch the craftsman prepare the gelatinous, jet-black substance using traditional tools. Then take the raw ink into your hands and mould it into your grip. By the end of the experience, you’ll have your very own ink stick to take home. Placed in a box made from paulownia wood, this handmade ink makes a great gift for fans of calligraphy.
- A workshop that has kept alive the ancient Nara tradition of ink making.