The Free Nara Excursion Bus Service starts this Friday the 24th. The bus will depart from the new NARA Visitor Center at the Sarusawa Pond at 9am and take participants to either Asuka Village, or the town of Yoshino in the mountains south of Nara City. No tour guide is provided! This is meant to be a self-guided tour. Visitors are encouraged to take a walking tour of either Asuka or Yoshino at their own pace using literature and suggested walking routes provided in pamphlets by the NARA Visitor Center.
Asuka Village is the birthplace of Japanese society as the world knows it today. The "kofun" or burial mounds of Japan's first Emperors and courtesans, like Ishibutai (the tomb Soga Umako, the founder of Japanese Buddhism and powerful member of the Imperial court), are scattered through out the countryside. Asuka Temple and its Buddha statue, the oldest of their kind in Japan at 1400 years old, are also accessible. The bus arrives in Asuka at 10:20 and departs 4:15, giving visitors to Asuka 6 hours to explore.
The arrival time in Yoshino is 11:05 and the departure time is 3:30 giving visitors just over 4 hours to explore the World Heritage Mt. Yoshino, Japan's most renowned cherry blossom viewing site, and the many temples and shrines on its slopes.
The bus returns to the NARA Visitor Center by 5:30. If you miss the bus, both Asuka and Yoshino are served by the Kintetsu Line (access to Nara, Kyoto, Osaka and beyond). Participants in the bus tour are accepted on a first come, first served basis (make your reservations early). After the 24th, the bus services will be offered Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays through the 31st of October 2015.