Thursday, 3 August 2017

Nara, Osaka and our only duff meal in Japan

Tōdai-ji in Nara
We took a regional train to Nara from Kyoto, which was a bit of a crushing disappointment having solely zipped about on bullet trains up to that point.

Nara was the capital of Japan and in the 8th century and contains some pretty amazing gates and concentrated in Nara Park just a short walk from the train station. There are some reasonably tame deer wondering around the park too and I can't forget the modern park offices, the toilets of which I was very pleased to avail myself of not finding any other loos in the park!
Todai-ji close up
There is no doubt that there were some incredible sights in Nara, and if you were looking for a 'best of Japan's temples and shrines' day trip you'd struggle to do much better. I know it will make me sound incredibly uncultured, but I didn't feel as awed by Nara as I feel I should have been. It was probably a bit of fatigue of having already seen so many temples already and spending quite a few days on our feet.
15m high seated Buddha
Nara was also the location of our only duff meal in Japan. There seems to be nowhere to eat inside Nara Park. We walked to the nearest exit we could find, hoping to find a line of restaurants catering to all the tourists. Sadly there was nothing around and when we did find a café it was the only duff thing I ate during our entire holiday. Not bad considering.
Crazy statues inside the temple

Bells? Laterns? at Todaiji Nigatsudo
Rather than get the train back to Kyoto, we headed to Osaka for dinner, because with the Japan rail pass you can go a bit crazy.
Donburi 
When we arrived in Osaka we took the metro from the main station to the Donburi district to have a look at all of the lights. Needing some dinner we fell into our now customary routine of walking past perfectly good looking places and finding some reason to dismiss them, until we found ourselves in an izakaya, a Japanese pub.
Donburi II

We pulled up some seats at the bar, ordered a beer and selected some random bar snacks. All of which were absolutely excellent. I think the bar staff quite enjoyed having two gaijin in their bar too. I was really pleased that we'd had a good izakaya experience during our holiday.
Full we headed back to the main station in Osaka to catch the bullet train back to Kyoto. A train ride which ONLY TOOK SIXTEEN MINUTES. I know that the cities are practically one continuous conurbation, but which other country in the world could you travel 55km from city centre to city centre in sixteen minutes?
Back in Kyoto we had a quick explore of the amazing station building and then caught a bus back to our hotel. We jumped on the same number bus that we'd used the previous day and new went close to our ryokan, only for it to start heading in completely the opposite direction. Once we were sure it was just a minor detour we hoped off at a random stop, with another couple of westerners who had made the same mistake.

We walked through the darkened Kyoto fish markets, which in any country other than Japan would have felt mildly threatening, up to a main road where we were able to catch another bus back to our ryokan.


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