Osaka Castle, Nara Park Deer and Zen Temple

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March 14th 2018
Published: March 17th 2018
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Our day started with trying to negotiate the buffet breakfast for familiar food. We met our guide Keiko, a lovely lady with fantastic English. We travelled to Osaka castle with its magnificent moat, enormous stone wall and amazing structure. It was our first taste of Japanese gardens which included glimpses of blossoms. We climbed the 8 flights of stairs to the top of the castle and looked out over magnificent gardens to see the blossoms almost ready to burst out. Yes, almost ready... but there were some and I have been informed by a friend currently in Tokyo, that they have arrived. The weather was spectacular to say the least - 21 degrees and sunny! It seemed that everywhere we looked there was a photo opportunity that couldn't be missed. We jumped back on the bus and headed to Dotonbori Street in Osaka city, thinking we would be seeing the same sights we saw on our private adventure. How wrong! We were led down tiny exquisite laneways and on to have an amazing lunch (the first of many). Guess what? We even found out why the kids were taking selfies on the bridge yesterday.... apparently they all love to pose like Glico man! So in the spirit of all things Japanese, we both posed like Glico man too and looked as ridiculous as everyone else in the crowd. We went back to 'our' coffee shop to have another orange and chocolate coffee - even convinced our Canadian family travellers to give it a try. Reckon we should be paid commission or finders fees at least! We also found Spiderman crawling around trying to get a feed. After lunch it was off to Nara Park where we were introduced to the sacred deers that freely roam the streets as well as the park. Fortunately people are no longer put to death if they found a dead one, particularly as they are having a few problems negotiating the traffic which are no longer carts. Apparently, in days gone past, people would get up early and if they found a dead deer in their yard, they'd drag it over to their neighbors. Yep that's right, they would be 'passing the buck'! As the deer have been protected for hundreds of years, they are so tame and smart that they look for those tourists that have bought the biscuites for them to eat. If you
View from the top of the castleView from the top of the castleView from the top of the castle

Climbed 8 flights of stairs and rewarded with the blossoms trying their hardest to strut their stuff
don't have any, you just show your empty palms and they buggar off to find some other tourist. Have to say they all looked a bit mangy but that was just due to losing their winter coat. Got to see what their summer coat is supposed to look like on one little fella..... hello Bambi! The Nara buddist temple was unbelievable, but is only a third of its predecessor's size, which was destroyed by fire when it was struck by lightening. This seems to have been a reoccuring theme throughout our Japanese history lessons. Lots of magnificent wooden buildings were burnt to the ground as they were the tallest objects and therefore struck by lightening on a regulr basis - then needing to be rebuilt. Kept everybody busy and employed I guess. Thank goodness they are now protected, not only by UNESCO, but also the high rise buildings currently surrounding them. After walking around for a couple of hours we boarded the bus to head back to Kyoto for dinner, which was a set menu to be shared including as much alcohol as you could manage in 90 minutes. Game on! While most of the food presented was traditional Japanese, I have to say I was slightly disappointed to also see pizza and french fries appear. Left it to the rest of the group to eat that stuff and I focused on a systematic approach to test each of the different drinks on the menu. As they were all numbered and grouped by the type of alcohol, this worked rather well. First was hot sake.... surprisingly nice. Next was the Japanese Jin with soda water....very refreshing. Meanwhile, Mal decided to stick to the plum citrus wine and he was up to his fourth by the time I was ready to try it as well. Had this one on the rocks and certainly understood why Mal hadn't moved on to a number above 9. By this time our 90 minutes was up, so reluctantly we put our shoes back on as we had been sitting at the traditional low table and 'merrily' got back on the bus. Of course grog and food sharing is a great way to meet our other travelling companions. Joining us for the next 8 days we have a Canadian family of 6 - Grandma (Japanese), her married daughter with husband and son, older nephew who lives in the USA and another older lady (not sure who she is related too but will let you know); 2 Aussies older ladies from Brisbane getting away from their husbands I think; 2 older couples who have come from Cambodia and now live in Sydney. Getting back to our motel, Mal and I decided (possibly more me than Mal) it was too early to finish the night, so we headed to the hotel bar and celebrated our first tour night eating nuts and drinking more hot sake and sambuca. The next day is predicted to be a top temp of 10C...just as well we fuelled up on alcohol I say, so our our blood wouldn't freeze...I'm very practical!

PS. The internet, this computer and loading photos have all been really slow and annoying. Takes hours to try and get things to work so will add more pictures once we are in Tokyo.

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