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If you are in for an adventure paired with lengthy, quirky, brutal honest thoughts then you are in the right place.

My name is Arisa and was a cosplayer for 12 years in Malaysia before settling down in Kyoto, Japan. Exploring Japan full time has been a long time dream of mine, so let's explore it together!
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Top Things to do in Nara: Perfect Day Trip Itinerary

Nara is often perceived as a place to see wild roaming deer in the city, super-fast pounding mochi and that’s about it and some might even argue that “half-day” is enough to explore Nara because there’s “nothing much to see”. But if you know what we locals know, a single lifetime alone is never enough to completely explore a single prefecture (not even including the whole of Japan lol) because there’s actually tons of things to do and see beyond just “deer”.

Allow me to show how you can fully utilize a whole day in Nara, covering everything from local sightseeing spots, to interactive activities, food specialities and even places to shop for souvenirs!

This itinerary is suitable for all age groups to follow especially if you are traveling as a family.

Visit Nara Park and Todai-Ji

These 2 locations are the default spots visitors would have saved in their itinerary and yes, I would encourage people to allocate their early mornings here as the crowd mainly comes from late 10:00 am~ also Nara park is open 24/7 and Todai-Ji starts from 7:30am. If you are feeling fit for a little morning hike, the Wakakusayama Hill offers a panoramic view of Nara city on the top.

The main key to avoid being stressed by massive crowds, which can’t be helped for popular locations, always put high traffic spots first and move on to less busy spots later towards the day.

Try Yomogi-mochi

Head back to Kintetsu Nara station to catch the pounding mochi in action, and don’t blink because you will really miss it! It’s not just a tourist trap as the freshly made Yomogi mochi by Nakatanidou tastes really good and chewy. Yomogi mochi is made with Japanese Mugwort which gives its distinctive grassy-taste and green colour, often enjoyed with sweetened red bean paste inside.

Head to Mi Nara Shopping Mall

Mi Nara is not just your average shopping mall, located a stone throw away from Heijo Palace Site Historical Park, an area rich with history which I bet you didn’t know about!

So here is a brief history lesson about the area: Heijo Palace used to be the main imperial residence of Heijo-kyo (now currently known today as Nara) when Nara used to be the capital city of Japan and it remained as the center of Japanese politics and economy. It is currently designated as one of the many World Heritage Sites in Japan which you mustn’t miss!

Hope this gives you more reasons to visit this area of Nara that many visitors skip unknowingly despite it being so close to Nara park.

Getting here is relatively easy, there are local buses from Kintetsu Nara station and even shuttle buses (click for schedule)


Did you know that Tokyo isn’t the only place to get that trending instagrammable (do we still use this term? Please update me gen Z lol) photos with goldfishes because in Kansai region we have one too!

Be transported into the colourful world of goldfishes with this latest interactive museum inside Mi Nara shopping mall. You will be amazed at how much design detail and layout planning is put into this attraction; visitors get to fully immerse themselves in each unique themed room while getting beautiful and memorable photos/ videos of their visit. One can easily spend 2 hours here just slowly exploring and there are a few hands-on activities you can participate in too like catching “Yoi-yoi” and goldfish scooping; these are commonly enjoyed during Japanese summer festivals but over here it’s available all year round!

If you enjoy taking beautiful photos and videos like this for social media, then you wouldn’t want to miss this spot.

*Disclaimer: Goldfish scooping is done as catch & release; you aren’t allowed to bring them home

Address: 〒630-8012 Nara, Nijoojiminami, 1 Chome−3−1 (Located on 4th floor of Mi Nara)
Entry Hours: 10am~6pm
Website: https://kingyomuseum.com/
Entry fee: 1200 Yen (adult), 1600 Yen (Elementary school & above)

NARA IKIMONO MUSUEM | 奈良いきものミュージアム

Like its name ‘Ikimono’, this museum focuses on living things; whether its past or present and can range from flora and fauna, all under one roof. This is a place most children would enjoy as there is a small animal sanctuary featuring different species of tortoises, snakes, iguanas and snakes that you can feed and pet too. 
Animal loving staff will ensure that they are handled with care and also teach visitors how to correctly hold them, even me who’s not really fond of reptiles got to experience this briefly and surprisingly despite their not so friendly faces (it’s a me problem not them lol) they are actually really gentle! 
For younger children, it’s best for the parent to assist their child and never leave them alone unattended.

Aside from the feeding and petting section, there’s also a collection of exotic looking bugs and other small critters you can view up close, you’ll be surprised to learn of their existence (in a good way lol). Overall I would save this spot for one of those rainy days during my trip because if you can’t escape the bad weather, might as well have an indoor backup plan ready.

Address: 〒630-8012 Nara, Nijoojiminami, 1 Chome−3−1 (Located on 4th floor of Mi Nara)
Entry Hours: 10am~6pm
Website: https://naraikimonomuseum.com/floor/
Entry fee: 1200 Yen (adult), 1600 Yen (Elementary school & above)

*Entry tickets to Nara Kingyo museum and Nara Ikimono Musuem can be purchased together in advance online with a special discount

Must try foods in Nara (available in Mi Nara)

Traveling in a group comes with all sorts of challenges especially during mealtimes so the best way to satisfy everyone’s cravings is by heading to a food court, inside Mi Nara (1F) there’s so many types to choose from, be it traditional Japanese food, takoyaki, ramen, udon, burgers, they have them all under one roof and the best part it isn’t really “tourist prices” as it is after all a local shopping mall. That’s one money saving hack right here, thank me later lol.

Children are more than welcome here too with each shop having their own children size cutlery and chairs available upon request.

My recommended pick would be the Mitsuha Ramen shop (ラーメン家 みつ葉 ミ・ナーラ出張所) as they are the original creator of the trending “foamy” soup ramen you come across on social media. Yes, you can easily find a similar replica anywhere in Japan but nothing beats the original and this is their 2nd outlet which is much easier to access and less queued.

Their handmade noodles are cooked to timely perfection giving it the perfect mouthful chew (not too soggy) and paired with their signature style foamy soup which gives it a creamy feel and all this without any dairy usage! It’s really mind-blowing!

They specialize in only 2 kinds of soup base on their menu- Shoyu & Shio, you know what they say about restaurants with limited menu options, it means you are in for a treat.

Plus, can we talk about how generous they are with the Charsiu slices? Normal ramen shops gives you a thin slice that you can actually see through which I don’t blame them due to current price inflation but Mitsuha really gives you your money’s worth with the portion they serve and I don’t lightly praise any ramen shop too because I’m a fussy true-blue Kyoto eater (our standards are high haha that way.

*Tsukemen (dip style) is only available here in Mi Nara branch

I know the majority of my readers are Malaysians so I would also put a disclaimer here that this ramen IS NOT HALAL. It clearly contains pork.


And if you are like me that needs something sweet after every savoury meal (it’s called having a special stomach space for dessert), look no further and head over to Purin no Mori (プリンの森) for their signature Daibutsu Pudding. It’s another popular food you must try while in Nara and though it can be easily found around Nara, this specific branch carries a large variety of flavours and a giant size serving (6 servings in one jar, imagine the size) too. 

Pudding lovers, do take a mental note on this!

Souvenir shopping

I know a lot of y'all are having a field trip with the current low currency exchanges right now plus tax free shopping privileges, it makes me so envious *sobs*. But it’s alright, please help Japan’s economy get back up on its feet by spending more on shopping lol! There are tons of shopping options in Mi Nara depending on what you are looking for and the classic spot is definitely “DRUG-STORES” because it carries a lot of the usual daily items we use and brands we can’t find at home (even if there is the price exchange & import fee is insane), so best to take advantage and shop a year’s supply during your visit.

Sugi Pharmacy (tax free shopping available)

I can on and on with the list of stuff to buy inside the drug store, but I won’t because that would take another standalone blog post but there are a few things I can recommend to get you started like sunscreen, ANESSA brand is effective, gentle to the skin (face and body) and even kids can use them too, Kanebo Suisai Beauty Clear Powder for cleansing and Saborino face masks for hydration which often have special season limited scents available.

Also there’s an ongoing debate on whether you can use the items once it's sealed inside a tax free bag, normally they trust you not to until you leave Japan but if you have to open it to repack your suitcase, make sure to have the tax free receipts ready at immigration in case of checks.


A place I never thought that I would one day recommend to my readers lol, Lopia is like Giant/ Jusco back in Malaysia you guys but a slightly more “atas” version because you can find high end Japanese fruits like Shine Muscat, Kyoho grapes, etc here too. The reason this spot made it to the list is because I know the demographics reading this post are adults and we gotta do adulting stuff too like buy ready packed ingredients so we can replicate and make our own favourite Japanese food at home to compensate our post travel blues until we save enough to travel again. It’s a valid struggle and no shame in that. I won’t judge you if you buy and bring home a 10kg bag of Japanese rice, make sure to grab some curry roux, dashi and furikake too! And for the kids, there is a huge snack aisle.

*Only cash payment and no tax free available here

Hokkaido Umaimonokan

If you don’t have enough time to stop by Hokkaido during this trip, do stop by Hokkaido Umaimonokan; a food specialty store where you can buy your favourite snacks and other dry packaged ingredients. I would recommend getting the dried Kombu because Hokkaido is known for their kelp which can be used in various dishes- as soup base or eaten

Please check Mi Nara's official homepage and Instagram for the latest updates and information during your visit.
Official Homepage: https://www.mina-ra.com/(en)  (English available)
Official Instagram : www.instagram.com/minara_2018/

Hope this post is helpful in giving y'all some ideas for your Japan trip planning, and if you enjoy Japan related contents make sure to check out my Instagram page @arisachw where I update multiple times a week!

Yours Truly,
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