Japan (Part 1) Introduction- A Babymoon…….Sakura Style!?
Japan (Part 2) Japan Airlines First Class Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo Narita
Japan (Part 3) St. Regis Osaka
Japan (Part 4) Around Kyoto
Japan (Part 5) Around Nara
Japan (Part 6) Andaz Tokyo
Japan (Part 7) Around Tokyo
Japan (Part 8) Conrad Tokyo
Japan (Part 9) Fujigoko Sakura viewing (Beautiful full bloom cherry blossoms)
Japan (Part 10) Westin Tokyo
Japan (Part 11) Japan Airlines First Class Lounge
Japan (Part 12) Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare
We decided to spend a day in Nara and booked a 3.5 hour tour through Narawalk. We met our English speaking guide Rieko at Nara Station. It was easy to spot her as she was holding a Narawalk flag. She introduced herself and gave us a small gift (origami). She let us know that we would be waiting for one other couple from New Zealand and that would be our full group for the day. We were encouraged to use the bathroom at Nara Station before our tour started. It was a cool and windy day and at times I wish I had a jacket or coat besides my sports jacket. She advised we would be doing a lot of walking and if weather got bad we could go by city bus to some locations. We started by walking through the “main drag” of Nara.
Our guide spoke good English and pointed out points of interest and different things that we would have otherwise missed. We went down small streets and narrow alleyways to see some old geisha houses.
We next made our way over to Nara Park. Nara Park houses several major attractions. The first being Kofukuji Temple that features a five story pagoda which is the 2nd tallest pagoda in all of Japan.
As we strolled though the park and walkways we encountered many deer. The deer are highly valued and considered a national treasure. These deer are not to be hunted! Our guide brought along some deer crackers for our group in case we wanted to feed the deer. There were also several vendors in the park selling deer treats if you didn’t come with a guide. The deer don’t bother you much but if they see you have food they can be persistent! Many of the deer also know to bow to you as a trick to get fed. They will keep bowing until you feed them sometimes.
We eventually made our way to Todaiji Temple which was originally constructed in 752! The present reconstruction dates back to 1692. Todaiji Temple is the the largest wooden building in the world. It houses one of Japan’s largest Buddha statues.
We visited a calligraphers shop next just outside of Nara Park. The gentleman doing the calligraphy was nice enough to write all of our names in Chinese characters using his skill. I was told the Japanese and Chinese characters are similar in many aspects and thats why he chose to write our names using Chinese characters. We got to keep these sheets of paper as a keepsake.
Towards the latter stages of our tour we walked to Kasuga Taisha Shrine (not pictured). We could not enter the shrine but our guide shared that this was where she got married and showed us some of her wedding photos at the shrine and several years later her children had pictures taken at the shrine which she shared as well.
After a lot of walking and an interesting 3.5 hour tour we had to walk all the way back towards Nara station. We were hungry at this point and our guide recommended several places to eat. We stopped at a place to try okonomiyaki which is a sort of Japanese pancake. Our guide initially described it as sort of a pound cake which it is nothing like in my opinion. My wife tried the beef okonomiyaki and I tried the shrimp. They prepare the dish in the kitchen but served the meal on our table which was similar to a hibachi table. It was very hot and you had to be careful where you touched. The upside to this is it kept our food nice and hot. Sadly my wife wasn’t a fan of the dish and preferred the shrimp version so we just shared it but she only had a few bites. I liked the dish but didn’t love it.