Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan, although it only lasted 75 years in the role. I did visit it the first time I stayed in Kyoto, feeding deer and seeing the enormous temples and the gigantic Buddha within. Unfortunately, I only had a single daytrip, and a hungover one at that.
The opportunity to return presented itself when I realised it was Golden Week, a week of national holidays in Japan when it would be pretty pointless to keep pushing with job applications. Instead, I booked a couple of nights each at some places near Kyoto where I'd not stayed before.
First up was Nara. I arrived after a long day of carrying my heavy bags, trains and getting lost, dropped off my bags and then made a little tour of the park and temples. It was a lot busier than the previous time I'd visited, but it was pretty easy to disappear into the woods and leave it all behind.
I went to bed fairly early that night, but the next day I awoke early and set out towards the mountains behind the park. The first part of the walk reminded me strongly of hills and parks in England, rolling fields of grass.
The views from the top caught me off guard a little. It was easy to think Nara was just a park, a few touristy streets, and some temples. In fact there's a pretty serious city stretching out in the other direction.
Instead, I kept going into the mountains, following the sign for a waterfall. I eventually found it; a stunning, secluded little spot where I was able to sit right by the water and hear nothing but the sound of the river.