Yesterday morning, we left Tokyo and took the train to Nara. It was a one hour train ride, fairly quiet and empty (unlike some trains that are quite packed in Japan!).
Chris had told me that Nara was a small town with one main street, so I was expecting the Japanese equivalent of Santa Barbara. We arrived to find – ugh – something that looks more like New York. What the heck was he talking about?! This, this is NOT a “small town.” But I guess it is “smaller” than Kyoto or Tokyo. It’s all relative.
We arrived Nara around 10am, and planned to drop off our bags at our next destination, another Ryokan. First, the job of finding it… We didn’t get a chance to walk around aimlessly too long, an old lady offered help and finally ended up walking with us until we reached the front door! We were so thankful because the place was hard to find (we only had a bad undetailed Google map of the area) and we probably would have walked for hours before finding it ourselves!
We had planned on our dropping off our bags, but the lady was all-over-the-place trying to make us comfortable (in Japanese) “sit down, sit down, have a cookie, turn on the heater, here’s some maps, here’s the TV, here have some tea….” She wouldn’t stop and we didn’t want refuse her cute-albeit-insistent hospitality! Finally we managed to fit a word into her monologue, saying we would leave to visit now and will come back later!
We walked to the main temple, Todaiji, a impressively large temple containing nothing but a mega giant golden statue of Buddha. It was huge! Chris called it a waste of space, to have this large beautiful temple and not be able to live in it!
Nara is well known for its deer population (miniature looking deers, some other species of deer than the ones we have in North America) and they hang out in large numbers in the park around the temple, coming up to all the strangers for deer cookies. Once again there were thousands of people walking to and from the temple (it was a holiday), but the deer didn’t show any signs of being shy. We bought some deer cookies and feed the deers, they were so cute. It was funny to see kids’ reaction to the deer coming up the them. Some were excited, and some simply terrified!
After the temple and the deers, we walked out of the park and back into the city (I’m sorry – “small town”) and window shopped for hours. We ended up stopping for Udon noodles for lunch, which were good, but holy cow restaurants out here do NOT serve vegetables… like ever. There’s the occasional side of Kimchi (spicy marinated vegetable, cabbage or radish usually), but aside from that it is all meat and complex carbs! All of it very salty too, except for sushi which I can’t have! Well after of few days of this, my body was just craving so bad something blend and healthy, so we found a little produce shop where we bought broccoli, oranges and apples. Couldn’t have tasted better to me!
We did some shopping at the equivalent of Walmart. I love finding these stores because they sell so many practical stuff with cute characters on them here! It is better than tourist souvenir shops if you ask me, where you can only buy useless overpriced items! Finally we left with 4 Japanese baby books! Now we have a bunch of baby books in French, 4 in Japanese, and still zero in English. IBP will be one confused baby.
For dinner we decided to try Mos Burger, the Japanese equivalent of Carls Jr. Apparently it is something you MUST eat when in Japan, like In-N-Out while in California. The burgers are special because the patty is made with beef and pork, so it tastes a little bit like sausage, so good – except Chris’ had a lot of mayo whic he refuses to eat entirely. So he ate a little bit around it, but he wanted another dinner after that.
Finally we settled on a pizza restaurant – granted not exactly authentic Japanese cuisine but there was a line outside the restaurant and lines mean there’s something good to eat. We planned on sharing a small pizza, but the waiter instructed us we had to order 2 minimum, so with the combination of the Mos Burger (and maybe possibly we had some donuts from Mister Donut before dinner, shhh!) it was a large dinner.
We went back to our Ryokan to read, scratch that, sleep.
The Ryokan lady saw our bounty of broccoli yesterday when we came back, and insisted to boil it for us for breakfast. So here we here this morning, with toasts, jam, eggs, and broccoli! A breakfast of champions.