Magnificent temples and works of art are among the cultural treasures to be seen in Nara, a compact city that was the nation's capital before Kyoto came into the ascendancy in the 8th century.
Highlights include a mighty bronze Buddha housed in the Todai-ji Temple, the world's oldest wooden building, the construction of which almost bankrupted the nation. The temple survived several great fires that ravaged the city in the past, while warring samurai clans were another threat that Nara had to overcome.
Today Nara is one of Japan's friendliest and greenest cities, with sika deer wandering freely around Nara Park. Believed to be messengers of the gods, the deer have become a popular symbol of the city.