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August 10th 2015
Published: August 11th 2015
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Kofuku-jiKofuku-jiKofuku-ji

One of eight Unesco temples in Nara.
From Osaka, it was a quick <1h train ride eastwards to the ancient capital of Nara, home of over a half dozen Unesco World Heritage temples dating from hundreds of years back. I have to admit that prior to planning for this Japan leg of my travels, I really hadn't even heard of Nara! It was only after checking out the recommended highlights in LP that I found out this place forms one part of some kind of holy trinity in the Kansai area with the larger cities Osaka and Kyoto, and as such definitely a must-see. It certainly wasn't a disappointment.

As mentioned, Nara boasts of a bunch of old, historical temples, thanks to its status as a one-time ancient capital. Visiting during pretty much the peak period during the summer (I spent an entire sweaty morning hunting for a place to stay, having as usual made no advance reservations), the place was packed with tourists, and in particular lotsa youngish Japanese couples intent on donning the traditional yukata (lounge wear) everywhere despite the crazy afternoon heat, which I suppose on the flip side lends this already very atmospheric city another extra edge. I'd already encountered roaming wild deer
Shika-senbei for saleShika-senbei for saleShika-senbei for sale

That's deer crackers for you. They absolutely love it, and will hound you to death for a crumb.
in Miyajima off Hiroshima, but Nara takes it to a whole new level! Apparently the hordes of deer peppering almost every corner of Nara Park have been there since time immemorial, and they certainly behave as if they own land, harassing tourists for their favourite handouts shika-senbei, and reducing many a young child to tears!

Stayed at Nara Ugaya Guesthouse and Makura Guesthouse.


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Katsu-don & Zaru-soba setKatsu-don & Zaru-soba set
Katsu-don & Zaru-soba set

JPY850. Despite this already being the second week of my trip in the sweltering summer heat, this was my first taste of the cold Japanese noodle dish.
Nara Ugaya GuesthouseNara Ugaya Guesthouse
Nara Ugaya Guesthouse

As usual, I made no advance reservations, and it turned out that this was peak Japanese domestic tourist season, with the coming weekend being public holidays. I was fortunate to stumble across this vacancy after over an hour knocking on doors in the summer heat. Japanese-style dormitory tonight.
Nara Ugaya GuesthouseNara Ugaya Guesthouse
Nara Ugaya Guesthouse

Very pleasant and friendly lobby, and I suppose a nice change from the more impersonal capsule hotels I've been depending on in Japan so far.
Nara National MuseumNara National Museum
Nara National Museum

The deer are into history too.
Todai-jiTodai-ji
Todai-ji

Probably the star attraction temple of Nara.
Deer ParkDeer Park
Deer Park

No prizes for guessing why it's named so.
Kasuga TaishaKasuga Taisha
Kasuga Taisha

And the road leading to it.
Toka-eToka-e
Toka-e

Lanterns lining the pond at night during this weeklong annual festival.
The High-Tech Toilets of JapanThe High-Tech Toilets of Japan
The High-Tech Toilets of Japan

Rinse your butt, adjust the water volume, temperature & nozzle position, women's wash, deodorizer, air-dry and now even a privacy button (?!). Turns out the last one is to emit some loud sounds to mask other ones that you might be embarrassed about, so you don't have to resort to coughing and flushing anymore. Crazy Japanese think of everything.
Makura GuesthouseMakura Guesthouse
Makura Guesthouse

I had to shift from Nara Ugaya the second day as almost all accomodation was booked solid this holiday week. Cozy albeit a little cramped, but it's mostly just a place to crash at night anyhows. Starting to miss the relative luxury of the capsule spas of Fukuoka and Osaka now...


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