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Published: November 2nd 2015
I slept so well last night, my bed was like a little cave with the curtain as it blocked loads of the light out. I even managed to fall asleep with the main room light on. Despite there being only one shower on the floor in the hostel there was no queue, so it didn't take too long to get ready. A cup of green tea and we were off. My friend had found this place online that was close to Umeda Station, where we would be getting the train. It was a beautiful morning and we had a good walk looking for the cafe. There were lots of people on their way to work and my friend commented that people from Osaka are always in a hurry compared to those in Tokyo, as they jaywalk if they can, where as people in Tokyo are good and wait for the lights to change.
We did get a little lost, but evenutally we found the cafe. We were on what we thought was the right street, but couldn't see it so we headed into the mart to ask where it was, the guy took us through to the entrance on the
other side of the store and it was right next door. The cafe was called Kohinomori, I think the name means something like coffee in the woods. Inside, the cafe was gorgeous, old fashioned with lots of dark wood. I thought it was fabulous, a great find by my friend. There were a few big tables at the front of the cafe, then a couple of smaller ones hidden in a nook at the back and of course a long bar/counter where people could sit, too. I could have happily idled a few hours away in there reading a book and drinking numerous coffees. We ordered what I think was called the sandwich breakfast set, or something like that, basically a sandwich and a drink. The food was quick to arrive. My coffee was good, but I was rather envious of my friends iced cafe latte, and I wished I had ordered that instead of regular black coffee. There was a small side salad, which was nice but nothing special. However the sandwich was awesome! It was just a fried egg sandwich, but it tasted great. The bread was lovely and thick and soft. There was plenty of egg and
lashings of tomato sauce and mayonnaise. I'm not a fan of tomato sauce, but I really enjoyed it on the sandwich. Also the set was a bargain at 420 yen.
We headed to Umeda Station, I think it was a different one from the one we had arrived at yesterday, or at least we were going to use a different line. We headed to the ticket office where we bought a 'Nara Ikaruga 1 Day Ticket'. The ticket cost 1,650 yen, which I thought was a bargain for the amount of travelling it allowed us to do. We could use it as a subway pass on the Osaka subway, a return ticket to Nara from Osaka on the Kintetsu railway line and on the buses in Nara. I think we took to the train to Namba and then we transferred to the train to Nara. The train journey didn't take too long, maybe 40 minutes. From Nara Station, we hopped on a bus (I think it was the loop bus) and headed towards Nara Park. The journey took about 15 minutes.
Nara Park was gorgeous. We walked up the path in the middle and there were lots of
deer about. I had read a little bit about Nara before my trip, so I knew that there would be some deer about. However, I was still shocked at how many deer there were. They were walking along, crossing the road to the other side of the park. I was surprised at how much they interact with the humans around them. They seem really domesticated. Some of the baby ones were a little more leery of all the people though. I think they like humans because they know that there is a strong possibility that they may get food. We walked through the park to reach Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Around 1,300 years ago, when Nara was the ancient capital, the shrine was founded to pray for the prosperity of the nation and the happiness of its people. It is said that the god of the shrine arrived riding on a white deer. The shrine is brightly painted red and white. It is free to enter the first part of the shrine and you can get some good pictures there. We paid the 500 yen, so that we could enter the shrine properly.
It was really quiet in the shrine
as most people that visit do not pay the entrance fee to go inside. The path is all clearly marked so you know the correct order to walk around the shrine. We went to the right first, there were lots of bronze lanterns, it was lovely to walk through them all. We then headed outside and there was a shrine in front of the slope ti the mountain. This area is off limits to humans, as it is reserved for the deer, so that they can roam free. We headed back into the main temple area. There were some more very beautiful lanterns, they had pictures of deer on them. There was also a door, which we entered. The room was dark and it was filled with lots of lanterns that were all lit up, simply stunning. Just as we were about to leave the shrine, we overheard a conversation and one of the people was saying that a musical performance was about to start in a few minutes. We decided to wait so we could hear it. The musicians soon turned up and got themselves ready. I thought that they would play some traditional Japanese music. Everyone got a
shock when they started playing 'Edelweiss'.
When we came out of the temple, we went off in search of some toilets. We went to the ones by the bus and car park, because they are so busy, they were disgusting. We weren't using them so headed back down through the park. The ones at the entrance, near where we had gotten off the bus, were sparkling, very modern and clean! Since we were close to the Big Buddha, we decided to go and visit that next. It was about a five to ten minute walk away. It was really busy, there were lots of tourists and deer about. I did have to be careful about where I was putting my feet as there was some deer poo around. We walked through the big gate, Nandaimon, towards the outer wall of Todai-ji temple. The deer were still wandering about. One lass was sitting, taking a break, she must have had some food in her pocket as one of the deer was pretty insistent about getting into her pocket and getting the food.
Todai-ji means 'Great Eastern Temple', and it is one of Japan's most famous and significant temples (although
I get the feeling that they are all important). The temple was constructed in 752 and was the head temple for all the provincial Buddhist temples. Todai-ji became so powerful, that the capital was moved to Nara to stem the influence of the temple on government affairs. We entered the temple and paid the 500 yen entrance fee. We walked out from the shade and saw the Daibutsuden in front of us. The building looked so beautiful. I really didn't expect it to look so magnificent. I think the weather helped it look so pretty, as it was a beautiful sunny day, and the sky was such a lovely shade of blue. I could have stood there taking photos of the temple for hours. We continued along to the path that leads straight up to the temple. It was fairly busy, with lots of people getting their photos taken in front of the hall. One group of granddads were just too cute.
Daibutsuden was the world's largest wooden building. The building that stands there now, is a reconstruction of the original, which was destroyed by fire, and was completed in 1709. As you walk in, straight away, you can
see the Giant Buddha in front of you. Lots of people were praying to the Buddha, it is one of the largest Buddhas in Japan. Me and my friend were trying to decide if this one or the one in Kamakura was bigger. Google to the rescue, as it told us that this one was the biggest of the two. This Buddha is 14.98 metres high and there are 960 curls upon its head. The Buddha weighs 500 tonnes. He was very impressive. After saying a prayer to Buddha, we waked around the rest of the hall. There were several other smaller statues of different Buddhas, they were impressive too. There was also this big pillar near one of the Buddhas and there was a big queue of people lined up. We went over to investigate. At the base of the pillar, there is a big hole, it is said to be the same size as one of the Giant Buddha's nostrils. It is said that those who can squeeze through the hole will be granted enlightenment in the next life. There was a group of school children, who were having a great time going through the hole. I also
watched a few adults squeeze through, there seemed to be a bit of a knack to it, but I am definitely too pudgy and would have gotten stuck.
As we left the Big Buddha temple, I was approached by a group of Japanese school children. They all looked adorable in their little yellow sunhats. They were from a local primary school in Nara and were doing a class project. They took turns asking me what I liked about Nara and what my home town was like. We got a group photo, which even had a deer posing with us. The kids were all so lovely, very polite. There were a few little stalls dotted about and we headed to one to get a little snack. I got a stick of grilled rice cake balls, which were dipped in a sweetish, soy sauce sauce. Very delicious, but I would have liked some extra sauce to dip the balls in. We headed to the main road to take the bus back to Nara station.
I had found a restaurant on tripadvisor a couple of weeks ago that I had wanted to try while we were in Nara. The restaurant was
located near the train station so we hopped on a bus back there. We walked up the wrong street from the train station, so ended up doing a bit of a loop, as the restaurant was on the next street. The restaurant was called Maguro Koya and what I had read about it, made me really want to try it. Inside the waiter showed us to a spot at the bar, it was filled predominantly with tourists, but there was one local chatting in English to a tourist sitting next to him. We had arrived pretty late, so it was well past 'proper' lunchtime. My friend chatted a little to the waiter in Japanese and said that it was me that had read about the place online. The restaurant was pretty small, a bit old and scruffy looking, but it was perfect. The chef and the waiter were a father and son team and really seemed to enjoy what they do. They took a real pride in their work. I ordered the fatty tuna set with rice separate, while T ordered tuna soaked in soy sauce served on rice. The food was amazing! I really, really enjoyed it. I sampled
some of tuna in soy sauce and it was really nice, but I definitely preferred the fatty tuna. It was so good, proper melt in the mouth. We also had pickles and soup as part of the set.
I needed some dessert afterwards, so we headed back to the family mart, I think it was our third or fourth visit by this point and I got a cream bun thing, which I made quick work of. We headed back to the bus stop and found the bus we needed to get to our next destination. We weren't on the nice, tourist friendly buses but a regular one, s o i had no idea about where we had to get off. The bus journey took about 15 minutes, maybe a bit less, as when you don't know where you are going things always seem longer. The leaflet I had been given at the train station had said that the temple we were heading to was a fifteen minute walk away, I think that was a little optimistic. We got our bearings and manged to find the temple, Gango-ji. Since this place is slightly off the main tourist trail, it was
a bit quieter. The entrance fee was 500 yen, when I paid I was given a leaflet, it was very informative and included a lot of information. It was founded in 588 and is one of the oldest temples in Japan. The temple was originally in Asuka, but moved to Nara in 718, following the relocation of the capital. The temple was also a lot bigger originally, but a lot of it has been lost to fires in the 17-19th centuries.
We walked around the temple, it was quite unique. The roofs were styled differently to normal temples in Japan, they looked distinctly Korean. I wonder what was the reason for this. The garden has lots of stone slabs that have images of Buddha carved on them. There were so many, all lined up together in group. To me, they looked like graves for babies, but I think they were there to honour Buddha. There was a museum, which had some interesting displays, but pretty much everything was in Japanese. At the back of the temple, there was a lovely small garden. The flowers were really beautiful.
As we left the temple one of the women working in
the ticket booth had told us if we walk in the opposite direction to the one we came, we would come to a load of traditional style houses. The streets here were even cuter than normal Japanese streets. The houses reminded me of when I was in Kanazawa last year. By a stroke of luck, we came across a traditional style house that had been set up to recreate what it was like in the past. Naramachi Nigiwai-no-le is a traditional house owned by a tradesman and was built in 1917, so was nearly 100 years old. It was about ten minutes before closing time, so we could only stay for a little while. I enjoyed looking around the house, it was really big. I always imagine Japanese houses to be small, but this one was huge, there were so many different rooms. I liked looking around the old style kitchen, it was interesting. There was a lovely little courtyard garden in the centre. This place also has a very clean bathroom, which I was pleased to see. We headed upstairs in the house for a quick look, we took the stairs near to the entrance to the house, and
this lead onto one room, which overlooks the street. There was another set of stairs in the kitchen, which I think you can use to access more of the house.
We headed to Sarusawaike Pond, which is near Kohfuku-ji Temple. It was really pretty looking at the temple and its reflection shown in the pond. We took a walk around and sat on some benches, where we had quite a good view. There were quite a few people sitting on the benches, both tourists and locals. We sat there for a little bit. Since the bench we had chosen to sit on didn't have the greatest view, we decided to head up towards the temple, even though it was closed. We couldn't enter any of the buildings, but we got to wander around and take in their grandeur. I would love to come back and explore this temple more. We saw the sun beginning to set over Kohfuku-ji temple. It was beautiful. It looked gorgeous. There were lots of school kids walking through the temple's grounds, I wondered if any of them were the students, who had interviewed me. Since it was getting dark and none of the attractions
are open late, we headed back to Nara station and hopped on a train to take us back to Namba.
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