Japan 2013 Part 1 : Day 1 – Nara 奈良

December 13, 2013 at 11:19 am

The posts and summary for the whole trip, can be found here.

♥November 22nd♥

We arrived in Kansai International Airport the morning. Following the advice from our hotel in Kyoto, we bought a 1 day JR Kansai Area Pass for ¥2,000 (Children half price).

At the JR ticket office, the girls experienced their first (kind) hospitality shown by Japanese. We were just commenting on the origami on the table of the ticket agent, and while we waited for our credit card transaction to go through, the ticket agent went to the back (office area) and took 2 origami cranes out for the girls!

We found rubber stamps for visitors too at the JR ticket office. After visiting a few JR stations, we realised this ‘facility’ is common; most popular JR stations and other tourist attraction have unique rubber stamps for visitors to make use of. The girls started their ‘stamping’ journey, looking out for rubber stamps at all the other stations, which they used to stamp on a notebook they carried along.
JR Station Stamps

We arrived at our ryokan Kyomachiya Ryokan Sakura at about 11am. Sakura is not cheap, especially when we wanted to have 4 in a room. We selected it because it’s located about 10mins walk from Kyoto Station, 5mins from Gojo Station (五条駅) on the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line, and there is a bus stop (Nishi Hoganji Mae 西本願寺前) 2mins walk away; making it a good base to explore Kyoto and the surrounding area.

As it was too early to check it, we left our bags there, and left for Nara (奈良), since the train fare there is covered by the JR Kansai Area Pass. Lunch was onigiri (the girls’ staple 1st few days of our holidays until they got sick of them) and buns from Kyoto station which we ate on the train.

Nara, a beautiful town, is 45mins train ride from Kyoto. Upon arrival, we walked towards Nara Park to find the famous Nara deer. Quaint and lovely shops lined the street.

Deco placed outside of an organic clothing shop. I should have gotten something for myself, but because we just arrived, I didn’t want to start shopping immediately. REGRET!Organic Clothing Shop Deco

Sugitama (杉玉), gathered leaves of Japanese cedars, traditionally hung at the roof of a sake brewery to thank the God of Sake. Seeing the change of colour from fresh green (from the start), the age of the sake brewed can also be gauged.Good luck deco in shops

We have to stop at almost every shop! How can we not, every shop is interesting!Shopping at Nara

Nara Pickles (奈良漬) is famous, but no, we didn’t get any.Nara Pickle shop

This shop, Nakatanidou (中谷堂) was drawing a crowd. It’s a shop famous for mochi, made on the spot (the dough making was supposed to be quite dramatic, but we missed it, as they’d finished making the dough when we arrived) using the best ingredient. They were so fresh, they were still warm when we bought them! Delicious.
Famous Mochi Shop at Nara

The hubs was walking with us through the town, until, we first sighted autumn colours! He was lost in the beauty (and we lost him!) and took his time (sometimes too long) to photograph them!
Beautiful Nara

The first temple we came across on this trip was Kofukuji Temple (興福寺), a part of it was undergoing renovation.

The girls tried to ‘bath the Buddha’ by following what others did before them.
Bathing the Buddha

The Kofukuji pagoda (五重塔) is almost 1200 years old.Kofukuji pagoda (五重塔)

Ema (絵馬) or wishing plagues that were hanging on the temple boardWishes Board

And then we spotted them! The deer!
Deer at Nara Park

Zaria was caught trying to train one of those deer. “Come here boy!”
Zaria training a deer at Nara Park

Don’t let these deer with bambi eyes fool you. Yes, they are tame. Yes, some allow you to touch or pat them. But a couple of them can turn aggressive when food is involved.
Deer at Nara Park

One tore off a page from my travel guide, when it discovered I didn’t have any deer food on me! Some went to sniff our bags to check for food.
Deers at Nara Park

I bought 2 stacks of deer biscuit from vendors at the park. Once these deer knew we had something, they started following us, nudging us for those biscuits.
Deers at Nara Park

FEED US NOW!Deers at Nara Park

An aggressive one actually nudged Zaria, then stood up and pushed Zaria with its front hooves, scratching her eyes! That was when we tossed all the biscuits to the ground, and had enough!

We were meant to visit the Todaiji (東大寺) Temple, where the main hall, Daibutsuden (大仏殿), is the world’s largest wooden building. Unfortunately, due to hubs spending too much time taking photos of the park (have to admit the park is beautiful!), we arrived just when they closed, i.e. 4:30pm.
Beautiful Nara Park

It got dark pretty quickly after that, so we have to head back to the station.

Deer even roamed near shops, as though they were shopping.Deer shopping at Nara Park

We chose a small home style restaurant (we were told later, they have been operating for 60years) for dinner. Food was quite good, at a very reasonable price, set meals for ¥650~¥750 (rice + soba/udon + tempura). Their menus are little drawings pasted on the wall.
Creative dinner menu

After dinner, we spotted a cafe which served green tea dessert. The cafe, Kyousyouan (京匠庵), had nice little potted bonsai plant as table decoration. This is real plant, and we were worried Zaria would pull of the little apple like fruit dangling from the plant!
Miniature bonsai

We ordered 3 items, a matcha pudding, a hot matcha with glutinous rice balls, and the girls shared a matcha parfait. All of our orders came out great, all packed with fragrant matcha.
Kyousyouan Green tea parfait

After dessert, we walked toward the JR station, and passed by more shops.
Souvenir At Nara

Shopping At Nara

Nice shop signboard At Nara

Nice shop At Nara

Nara is a pretty nice town, with lots of arty farty shops, trendy and traditional restaurants. Would love to come back to this place again.

Back in Kyoto, we walked back to Sakura from Kyoto Station. During our stay in Kyoto, the Kyoto Tower would be our beacon to find our way back to Sakura.
Kyoto Tower

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