After a detour to visit the Nijo Castle and its lovely cherry bosom groves on recommendation from a hostel comrade I headed on the train to Nara. It was beautifully sunny when I arrived which afforded only a small problem for me and my sweaty self carrying 15 kilos of luggage for a 30 min trek… It was so worth the walk however as my hostel was a gorgeous converted 100 year old tea house with a beautiful central Japanese garden and a maze of sliding doors! Once I had unloaded all my stuff I strolled out to the nearby park which was FIILLED with deer. This wasn’t Richmond park where they gallop elegantly in the distance, here they come trotting up in their hundreds and nuzzle their slippery noses into your palms hunting for crackers! Although a little moth eaten and without their antlers they were really pretty lovely! This was of course my feeling until I realised that my plan for a packed picnic wasn’t going to happen with over 1200 of these hungry animals about! Defeated, I attempted to eat on the move, strolling to the Todai-Ji temple and the incredible Daibutsu Buddha. It was way bigger than I expected at 16m and despite the tourists everywhere still actually had a rather spiritual feeling about it. Perhaps it was the way you were forced to crane your neck up to the sky and the gilt roof of the temple to take it all in that made it really so truly awe inspiring! From there I pottered around beautiful Japanese gardens and as the sun began to set realised I still had to find a laundry place as I was getting dangerously close to doing the gross boy thing of turning your underwear inside out… Dad, Joe, that’s a shout out to you there! Eventually when I found myself sitting in my tiny coin laundry place I did actually attempt to flick through some of the manga cartoons stacked next to me but nope still definitely not my thing, you have to try everything twice though right?
The following day I decided to catch up on some much needed un-touristy time and took myself for a day of reading in the park. I found a deer-less spot and a picnic of these amazing persimmon leaf wrapped sushi pieces. This is the classic Nara dish (so I had to try it) and whilst it was topped with mysterious looking creatures, it really was delish! I then checked the weather forecast for my following destination and went on slight panic mode when I saw that it was possibly going to be solidly -2 degrees…. Nara doesn’t really have anything but tourist shops so it was only when I checked into my second hostel of the city that I was directed to the suburbs. There I found the BEST charity and second hand stores stocking up on brand new socks and thermal leggings and a fab second hand vibey Patagonia fleece as well as a five quid fleece lined waterproof jacket! The total cost came to under £30 and with the pretty new compact jackets costing over £100 on SALE in the city centre I was feeling rather chuffed! I celebrated with a bowl of grilled beef and Korean Kimchi in a vending machine restaurant before bed and prepped myself for tomorrow’s trip where I hoped I would now be very snug!
(Photos; Persimmon wrapped sushi, manga cartoons at the laundry place, my ramen dinner, deer outside the temple, the tea house hostel, the lotus leaf under the giant Buddha inscribed with a Buddhist depiction of the universe, the Doibutsu Buddha, one of the two gold Buddhas that flank the central figure, Nijo Castle, cherry blossom groves, view over Nijo castle, deer in Nara.)