Rent a Michimo Nissan electric car and drive in Kashihara countryside to see where the first emperor of Japan was crowned and entombed, discover a traditional district, explore hills, eat great food... and maybe walk among endless seasonal flower fields surrounding the ruins of a palace! I had an exhilarating day with low carbon footprint, driving an electric car for the first time!
Michimo Nissan Electric Car Rental
Great for residents and language students looking for sustainable tourism, this service is not yet adapted to foreigners who do not speak Japanese.
- Ensure your driving licence is valid in Japan.
- Reserve online (Japanese only) from 3,240 yen for 3 hours to 8,640 yen for 1 day.
- Study the rules for driving in Japan.
- Go to the rental counter just outside the central exit of Kashihara-jingu-mae station (usually open from 09:00). Show your driving licence, get the information tablet, listen to the explanations, and check your car with the staff. The discussions & documents will be in Japanese only.
- Michimo Nissan electric cars are small (2,3m long x 1,2m wide) and cute, with two seats behind each other. As there is no trunk and as the doors cannot be locked, travel light!
- Your electric car will be odourless, silent, easy to drive, fast enough considering the local speed limits, and its charge will suffice for a day of sightseeing (you typically have to bring the car back before 18:00).
- The tablet displays the limits of the zone in which your Michimo car is allowed but I recommend using your favourite smart phone application in your native language to navigate (and setting points of interest before your trip).
- The simple roads and many free/cheap parking spots make driving in Kashihara much more pleasant than in Tokyo.
Rental: Michimo Station (ミチモ・ステーション) Address: 618 Kume-cho, Kashihara, Nara 634-0063 (〒634-0063 奈良県橿原市久米町618) Open: Every day. Train: Kashihara-jingu-mae station Website: https://michimo.jp/
1-day itinerary in Kashihara city
Fine in all seasons, this itinerary includes my favourite places in Kashihara city.
1. Kashihara Shinto Shrine
Place where the first emperor of Japan (Jimmu) was crowned. Get photographed with the giant votive plaque matching the current year (2018 photo - Year of the Dog) and, if lucky, with its mascot Yatagarasu, legendary three-legged crow that guided Jimmu. Free parking for Michimo electric cars, free entrance and free toilet. Access by car may be impossible on 11 February due to celebrations for Foundation Day.
2. Tomb of Emperor Jimmu
Mausoleum of Jimmu, first Japanese emperor. Rather than parking here, walk 10 minutes among the beautiful green trees from Kashihara Shrine and look if a Yatagarasu is observing you... After all, the Japanese emperors are descendants of of Shinto goddess, and Shinto is a religion tightly linked to nature! Free entrance.
Location: Jimmu-tenno-ryo (神武天皇陵) Address: Okubo-cho, Kashihara, Nara 634-0061 (〒634-0061 奈良県橿原市大久保町) Open: Every day. Website: https://www.kunaicho.go.jp/ryobo/guide/001/
3. Fujiwara Palace Ruins
These ruins show little of what was Japan's first capital city but they are very popular with couples and families due to amazing flower fields.
- Spring: 2,500,000 rapeseed flowers over 25,000 ㎡, typically from the start to the middle of April.
- Summer: Sulphur cosmoses over 7,000 ㎡ and lotuses over 3,000 ㎡ from the end of July to mid-August.
- Autumn: 3,000,000 cosmoses over 30,000 ㎡ from the start to the end of October. Free parking and free toilet.
Location: Fujiwara-kyuseki (藤原宮跡) Address: Daigocho, Kashihara, Nara 634-0072 (〒634-0072 奈良県橿原市醍醐町) Open: Every day. Website: https://www.city.kashihara.nara.jp/kankou/own_kankou/kankou/spot/fujiwara_kyuuseki.html
4. South-east countryside
Fields, hills... Great with a big blue sky!
Imai Machinami Exchange Center Hanairaka is a museum and tourist information centre introducing the district (Imai) with various displays, a scale model, etc. Free entrance, free toilet and friendly staff. Convenient fee-charging parking behind the building.
Museum: Imai-machinami-koryu-senta Hanairaka (今井まちなみ交流センター華甍) Address: 2-3-5 Imai-cho, Kashihara, Nara 634-0812 (〒634-0812 奈良県橿原市今井町2-3-5) Closed: Mondays (except public holidays), end & beginning of year. Website: https://www.city.kashihara.nara.jp/kankou/own_imai/kankou/spot/imai_hanairaka.html
6. Imai(-cho) district
Imai traditional district has been a bit redesigned to hide most modernity normally visible in Japanese streets. Just walk from Imai Machinami Exchange Center Hanairaka while keeping quiet for the benefit of the residents. The east-west streets are charming at sunset!
7. Hackberry Café
Hackberry Café is my favourite restaurant in Nara prefecture, reasonably priced and conveniently located in Imai district. Designed important cultural property, its lovely building is a 100+ y.o. Japanese-style house, spacious & bright (first floor covering only half of the ground floor), well-decorated, and with comfortable chairs & sofas. I recommend it after 15:00 as it is crowded at lunch time. The afternoon menu features awesome fruit-based smoothies and vegetarian savoury pancakes; the dinner menu includes tasty vegetables that should satisfy vegans. The friendly staff allowed me to recharge my phone but please ask only if necessary. Free parking space for 6 cars, and modern toilet.
- Smoothies: blood orange + strawberry, blueberry + yoghurt, chocolate + banana, mango, matcha green tea + banana...
- Dutch Baby pancakes: apple + cinnamon, banana + chocolate, blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry...
Restaurant: Hackberry Café (ハックベリー) Address: 1-3-3 Imai-cho, Kashihara, Nara 634-0812 (〒634-0812 奈良県橿原市今井町1-3-3) Closed: Tuesdays. Website: http://cafe-hackberry.net
Spend 1 day in Nara city (deers, big Buddha statue...) then 1 day in Kashihara city, sleeping at a local hotel. I remember with pleasure the great view of the city from the "Sky Spa" open air bath of Candeo Hotels Nara Kashihara.
Hotel: Candeo Hotels Nara Kashihara (カンデオホテルズ奈良橿原) Address: 1-1-50 Naizen-cho, Kashihara, Nara 634-0804 (〒634-0804 奈良県橿原市内膳町1-1-50) Train: Yamato-yagi station Website: https://www.candeohotels.com/ja/nara-kashihara/
Fans of ecotourism can also enjoy the environment without electric vehicle, on foot in 2 full days, probably including the 3 Mountains of Yamato (former name of Japan): Mount Unebi, Mount Miminashi, and Mount Amanokagu.