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Waikaru Buggy Experience


The Waikaru Buggy Experience in Ikaruga, Nara is a new and exciting way to explore the rich history and culture of this ancient part of Nara. Ikaruga is well known for its abundant temples and shrines that date back to the 7th century. Indeed, Japan's first ever UNESCO World Heritage Site can also be found here; Buddhist Monuments in the Hōryū-ji Area was registered in 1993, it's an area you will get to explore, along with the old back streets and country roads of Ikaruga.





Waikaru


Nara Ikaruga Tourism Waikaru is a tour desk that specializes in tourism in the Ikaruga area, selling related tours and experiences as well as offering general tourist information on the area.

Behind their spacious and airy office, there is a newly renovated rental house catering to groups of up to 10 people.


Some of their most popular attractions include personalized tours of the major local temples, sutra copying at Daruma-ji Temple, an authentic tea ceremony, a kendo experience, and a tofu making experience but what really our collective eye was the Buggy Tour.


After filling out the necessary paperwork and showing that you have a valid driver's license for Japan, you will be given the opportunity to choose between a cute little 3 geared-buggy, or a futuristic electric-powered trike. You will be shown a simple safety instruction video then head out to the car park to get some practice before heading on out.



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Tips


It takes a little while to get the knack of each vehicle, so here are a few pointers to help save you some time.


The Buggy's acceleration is mild and doesn't even engage until the peddle is pressed halfway down. When changing gears all you need to do is simply take your foot off the accelerator and notch the gear stick either up or down. You definitely will need to be cognizant of gear changes. When going up an incline for example, you will need to drop down a gear for the buggy to be able to keep up.


The top speed is about 30kph. The ride is not too bumpy and neither is the engine noise too loud. It really does feel like you are on a little amusement ride out on the public roads.


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The trike is a simple "twist-and-go" just like a regular scooter. What is different though is that because it is a trike, the natural inclination to shift your body weight to the direction you want to go won't work.


This will feel quite counter-intuitive at first.


The correct approach is the following: When turning left, slightly shift your body weight to the right and pull your left hand toward your body. And vis-a-versa when turning right.



Safety & Standing Legs

Although it is a trike and completely stable on its own, you may find yourself putting one leg on the floor when you are stationary, as you would do on a bicycle or motorbike. This is OK, but there is one thing you need to be aware of. When taking off on a bicycle or motorcycle, you are free to return your standing leg at a leisurely pace. With a trike, this is very dangerous as your trailing leg will get snagged on the rear wheel, which could cause serious injury.


The easiest way to avoid this is to keep your feet within the trike, planted firmly on the platform. You will probably feel the natural inclination to put a foot on the road surface when coming to a halt, but we would advise you to resist the urge. Just know that the trike won't topple over.



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The Route


The basic route takes in the main three temples in the area, namely Horin-ji, Hoki-ji and Horyu-ji Temples. They are all accessed via country backroads making the journey safe and pleasant. You will also pass a bunch of interesting souvenir shops and amazing cafes where you can make a quick pit-stop to refresh yourselves and do some shopping. The route will be discussed with your guide before you head out, but sudden changes can be made on route.


Throughout the trip, your guide will periodically pull over to make sure everyone is OK, tell you about the area in which you are in and confirm your route so there's no need to worry about being unable to communicate once you get going.


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Cruising the old back streets of Ikaruga is an unforgettable experience. The narrow, winding streets are lined with traditional buildings and temples, and are a great way to get a sense of the area's rich history and culture. You can stop at local shops and restaurants, and experience the city's vibrant atmosphere.


With your knowledgeable guide at the wheel, you'll be able to experience the true essence of Ikaruga and feel its rich history and culture.






Horin-ji Temple


The first stop on our journey was Horin-ji Temple. The temple's history is not fully known, but the prevailing theory is that it was built by Prince Shotoku’s eldest son to pray for his father’s recovery from illness in AD 622. The surrounding area is mostly agricultural so the temple's 3 story pagoda can be seen from quite a distance. The pagoda is actually a reconstruction. Lightning struck the original structure in 1944, sadly burning it to the ground. It was reconstructed in 1978 for the most part thanks to donations from the public.


Luckily, the original reliquary was saved from the fire and is now housed in the pagoda.



Horin-ji Temple is also known for its collection of gorgeous statues which are on public display in the Kodo Lecture Hall. These designated cultural assets include an elegant Asuka Period Yakushi Nyorai (Healing Buddha), several statues of Prince Shotoku, and an eleven-headed Kannon from the Heian period.





Hoki-ji Temple


The second stop on our tour is Hoki-ji Temple, home to the oldest 3 storied pagoda in Japan.


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Prince Yamashiro, son of Shotoku Taishi (574–622), established the Temple to honor his father’s dying wish. Originally the site of Okamoto Palace, this is the site where Shotoku Taishi lectured on the Lotus Sutra


The pagoda stands 24m tall and was modeled after the five-storied pagoda at Horyu-ji Temple, the temple to which Hoki-ji now belongs. The temple is also home to a beautiful gilded wooden statue of the Eleven-faced Kannon from the Heian period (794–1185), which has been designated as an Important Cultural Property.



There are a lot of open fields surrounding Hoki-ji Temple and many of them are filled with cosmos flowers. In the Autumn time, photographers visit here en masse to get a shot of the cosmos with the majestic pagoda in the background. the scene especially comes alive during sunset as the golden rays bounce gently off the pastel pink petals.


The small pond within the temple grounds is also very pretty in the summertime when it fills with colorful water lilies.





Horyu-ji Temple


Finally, you'll visit Horyu-ji Temple, a World Heritage Site and one of the most important temples in the whole of Japan.


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Horyu-ji Temple also known as the Temple of the Flourishing Dharma was founded by Prince Shōtoku in 607. Though it was burned down in 670 by lightning, the temple was reconstructed and the Kondō (main hall) is recognized as the world's oldest wooden building. A fire in 1949 destroyed a mural of the Asuka period, a national treasure, and led to the day when the fire broke out being designated as fire prevention day for cultural properties. Hōryū-ji, along with Hokki-ji, was registered as Japan's first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.


The central gate of the temple is guarded by Japan's two oldest statues of Kongo Rikishi, the pair of muscular deities often seen flanking large temple gates. These impressive sculptures are believed to have been created in the 9th century and are designated as National Treasures. Once inside, visitors can explore the main hall which houses some of Japan's oldest statues of Buddha. These rare creations, which are also designated as National Treasures, date back to the Asuka Period (538-710).



Visitors can witness the evolution of Japanese Buddha statues by visiting the nearby great lecture hall (Daikodo) which exhibits statues from the Heian Period (794-1185). These statues have lost the more Indian appearance of earlier creations and instead display a distinctly Japanese style.



The Buggy Tour offered by Nara Ikaruga Tourism Waikaru is a great way for anyone visiting Japan to get off the beaten path and explore an altogether different side of Japan. What sets this experience apart is the unique opportunity to explore the city's narrow, winding back streets, lined with traditional buildings and temples, at your own pace on a fun and easy-to-drive buggy or trike. With the guidance of a knowledgeable Waikaru guide, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for the area's rich history and culture, while making a bunch of unforgettable memories along the way.



 


The Fine Details


The entire Waikaru Buggy Experience typically takes about 2 hours, and is available for 1-4 participants.


・You will need a valid driver's license for Japan.


・The experience costs ¥4,800 per person, plus the fee to enter each temple.


・Reservations must be made by 12 PM the previous day.



If you'd like more details or would like to make a reservation, we will happily help you out. Send us an email at info@sarusawa.nara.jp with as many details as possible and lets get this show on the road!



 

How To Get To Waikaru


The best way to get to Waikaru is to first take the JR line to Horyuji Station. From there, it's just an 18 minutes walk.


The train from JR Nara to Horyuji runs every 30 minutes or so, it takes 11 minutes and costs ¥220. JR Rail Pass holders can ride for free.



Nara Ikaruga Tourism Waikaru

1-6-30, Horyuji Higashi, Ikoma Gun Ikaruga Cho, Nara Ken, 636-0112, Japan

Tel: 0745-75-8055

Hours: 9AM - 6PM

Closed: Wednesday



 

Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn






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