Hike up Wakakusayama

Visitors to Nara are often drawn to the majestic Todaiji Buddhist temple and its surrounding Nara Park, home to more than 1,000 deers.

For us, the one thing we wanted to do while in Nara was to hike up Wakakusayama, or Mt Wakakusa. Rising 350m high, with a 560m trail from the bottom, Wakakusayama is popular during Cherry Blossom season and in autumn when the leaves on the surrounding trees turn an enchanting shade of amber and gold.

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Getting to Wakakusayama will require one to walk through Nara Park anyway, so we had the chance to marvel at Kofukuji’s and Todaiji’s architecture and feed some of the deers that roam around the sprawling complex.

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560m may seem like a short distance to cover on foot, but it was an uphill trek on steps cut into the earth and I’m a very inactive person. My legs screamed bloody murder as I made my way up, while my lungs, unused to such activity, worked fast and hard to take in more air.

Thank goodness for the brilliant scenery along the way up, which made the hike less painful. It was great to stop whenever I needed and I took time to enjoy the sounds of rustling leaves and view of Nara spilling out below while I caught my breath.

Some 40 minutes later, we found ourselves at the peak of Wakakusayama, a grass-covered plateau where one could enjoy a picnic and take in the city view.

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Although we packed a picnic basket, with the intention of enjoying a quiet mid-afternoon tea atop Wakakusayama, rain had pelted down during the hike. At the top, strong winds whipped cold rain into our faces, making it quite challenging to eat.

Furthermore, it was about 10°C that day, and being wet and cold was a bad idea.

So we walked the length of the plateau and hung around as long as our bodies could bear the cold, and then descended from Wakakusayama. Going down was far easier! :)

There are some tea houses at the foot of Wakakusayama, and we sought out one of them for hot tea and to warm ourselves.

The rain refused to let up even after an hour, so we exited the tea house and made our way back to our hotel slowly on foot, cutting through a different part of Nara Park. Along the way we found a most charming tea house tucked among the trees.

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It was such a beautiful scene, almost like something you would find in fairytale land!

We didn’t stop for a snack there though, as we wanted to get out of Nara Park before the sun set and we still had a long way to go. In autumn, Japan falls into darkness soon after 4.30pm.

We were completely drenched by the time we reached Kasuga Hotel, where we stayed for two nights. Thank goodness our western-style room came with a bath, and in there we soaked ourselves in hot water to warm up. I love how the hotel provides a foot massager in every guest room – the machine was a life-saver for my worn feet!

A sweet end to an eventful day came in the form of a snack of hot matcha and local sweets, courtesy of the hotel.

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Goodnight now. I’m exhausted!

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