A short train ride from Kyoto, Nara was Japan’s first real capital and centre of cultural and political life between 710 and 794. The city is packed with shrines and temples in a small area, which can easily be covered on a day trip from Kyoto. One of the seven great temples of Nara, Todaiji is the largest wooden temple in the world and Nara’s main attraction. The present structure was built in 1709 after a fire destroyed the original, and although immense, is only two thirds the size. Inside the main hall is a Giant Buddha statue and amazingly lifelike wooden carvings of characters by the famous 13th Century sculptor Unkei. Another top attraction is Nara’s Deer Park, covering a wooded area of 5.25 hectares and so called for its 1000 strong herd of tame deer. The deer are regarded as divine messengers of the Kasuga Shrine and a popular activity with visitors is to feed them biscuits that are on sale from the park offices.