Once the ancient capital of Japan, Nara has been an important town for more than a millennium and is gifted with architecturally and historically priceless buildings. These UNESCO World Heritage Sites are collectively known as the Historical Monuments of Ancient Nara. The modern city center sits alongside the former Imperial palace of Heijo. History-loving groups meeting in Nara MICE venues will be fascinated, especially once they see sacred deer roaming the streets.
The nearest airports to Nara are two closer to Osaka, Osaka International Airport (ITM), which is in the town of Itami 30 miles northwest of Nara; and Kansai International Airport (KIX), 45 miles southwest of Nara, which was built when Osaka International outgrew its dimensions. Both have service to all the other key Japanese cities, but Kansai now has all the long-haul international itineraries, including, but not limited to, Amsterdam, Dubai, Paris, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Melbourne, and Singapore.
Chief of MICE venues, Nara Centennial Hall has a large exterior patio, a cafe, and three halls that can accommodate up to 1,720, 440 and 100 persons, respectively.
MICE hotels in Nara include the 330-room Nikko Nara, which has six function rooms, including halls Hiten for 1,000 persons and Tenku and Hagoromo both for 220; the 129-room Nara Hotel, which is beside a lake in a park and has six event areas, the largest able to cater to 350 persons; the 120-room Fujita Nara, which has five meeting spaces, with the largest, the Garden Room, able to host 140 persons; the 26-room Hakushikaso, a very Japanese choice with a banquet hall and, as many hotels here do, an onsen, or Japanese bath; and the 12-room boutique property Noborioji, which has two restaurants and a boardroom that can also be used as a private dining room.
Unique places in this former capital include New Wakasa, a traditional Japanese ryokan hotel with baths, a restaurant, and a terrace for events that overlooks the Todai-ji Temple (housing a 50-foot-high golden statue of Buddha). At the base of Mount Wakakusa is Nara Kasugano International Forum, which has four meeting rooms, eight conference rooms, one for more than 200 persons, a reception area for 500, and a theater, also for 500, that puts on classical Japanese productions; Nara National Museum, chock-a-block with priceless antiquities from the city’s fabled history, including galleries of sculptures and bronzes, and East and West wings with space for events and, in the gardens, a teahouse by a pond; facilities, teahouses, houses, Neiraku Museum with ceramics and beautiful Japanese gardens of Isuien, especially popular during the annual cherry blossom, and the clubhouse and 18-hole golf course, with Japanese touches, of the Nara OGM Golf Club.
Nara has plenty of Japanese restaurants that will definitely make you feel you are part of this ancient city. Examples include Hyakurakusou, just outside of the city near to the Gakuen-Mae train station, which has a wonderful garden and private rooms; tiny, 16-seat Jura in an old storehouse but as authentic a meal as you will have and in the oldest part of the city; Shizuka, which is very traditional and specializes in kamameshi (rice dishes cooked in a large iron pot); Edogawa Naramachi, in a building that is 140 years ago beside a Japanese garden and where the specialty is unagi, or eel, and small, wonderful, thatched Mizutani-chaya, which is close to the Nigatsu-do temple and has a pretty stone garden in front of it.