Nara: The Paris of Japan

I’m getting closer and closer to having to make a decision about the next year of my life. I’m completely torn. I know my time in Japan is coming to an end. I can see it looming in the horizon, I just don’t know if it’s going to be at the end of this year or next year.

The dread of the end coming has really motivated me to get out there and explore. no excuses.

Early this term I had a random tuesday off from school. Since it was only one day I couldn’t plan a big trip and I didn’t have the money for a long trip anyways. But I knew that I wanted to use that day to see an area of Japan I hadn’t been to before.

I decided to finally check out Nara.

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The temple that houses the famous buddha statue in Nara.

 

Nara is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan.

Tourists often stop there for a day while visiting the Kansai area (Kyoto/Osaka). It’s fairly close to Fukui and has just enough to do for a day trip without missing anything really important.

Because its such a popular tourist destination near us I had a really hard time finding a traveling partner. You see all my good friends who have been here a number of years with me have all already been to Nara. Even the new ALTs who had just arrived a few months ago had already all been to Nara.

I, however, was not willing to miss out on the opportunity to see Nara so I decided to take my first SOLO sight seeing trip.

I have travelled alone before in Japan, but they were always trips with a purpose. I had never gone to a new place just to go sightseeing on my own before. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about the whole idea. I was nervous I was going to be bored or feeling like I wasted my time and money.

I wasn’t all that excited about the idea of Nara either, even though everyone I spoke to about Nara loved it. I guess thats why it took me so long to finally visit it. All I really knew about Nara was that it was an old place, it had a giant buddha, and it was filled with a ton of free roaming deer.

At this point of traveling around Asia and Japan, I have seen A TON of old temples and buildings. I have seen a million giant buddhas. I also know that free roaming animals mean aggressive hungry animals that would push you over to steal your food. not cute.

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Don’t be fooled by his cute awkward legs. He is evil and waiting for his next target!

 

I made sure to do some extra research on my train ride to Nara. I wanted to make sure to check everything off the must do list here. I didn’t foresee myself wanting to come back.

When I arrived I knew the main tourism area was a god 20-30 minute walk from the station. The guidebooks all suggested that you take a bus over there because the park area is very large and requires a lot of walking. I decided to walk there anyways though. I was feel lethargic from the long train ride and I wanted to get a feel for the city.

The walk through Nara was beautiful.

The city was a bit busy because it was a holiday but also not so crowded since it was a tuesday in the tourism off season. I enjoyed absorbing the atmosphere in Nara.

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In case you didn’t realize how large that building was earlier that houses the buddha. Here are some people standing near the doors!

 

Nara had all the old world charm of Kyoto without the whole city built up around it.

This is the kind of place I imagined when I dreamed of coming to Japan while getting ready to leave. There are old traditional buildings surrounded by gardens and green grass, families having picnic lunches together, an old man playing the niko (traditional 2 stringed chinese violin), and a few artist scattered around doing watercolors of the scenes.

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I love seeing an artist at work!

 

There is a mystery and a romantic side of Japan in this small quaint city that I imagine Paris would feel like if I ever visited there.

I visited the large Buddha and took some pictures. It was large. It was seated. It was indoors. I was a little less than impressed. I’m sure for someone who hasn’t seen much of asia they would be awed by the size of it all, but I wasn’t surprised. It was what I expected. I have a hard time getting excited over something just because it’s a famous thing from a famous place. it has to be cool too!! I do think large indoor seated buddhas are cool, but how many do you really need to see in your life?

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His gesture here is one of blessing and reassurance. He is basically saying, “Do not fear.”

 

There were deer everywhere. The deer were aggressive. There were warning signs everywhere telling people to beware of the deer.

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It was cute to watch the children feed them though. I would also say these deer looked far less ratty and inbred than the deer on Mizushima in Hiroshima. But they too were what I expected. Right as I was changing my mind about the annoying deer and decided to take a picture of a “cute” one I was bonding with, it walked up to me and ate my map right out of my hand. damn deer.

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This is the deer who ate my map right out of my hand. How rude.

 

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They do look a bit majestic… Overall Nara Deer > Hiroshima Deer.

Making my way over the the shrine area (the difference between a temple and shrine here!) I befriended a few old Japanese folk that were amused I could speak a bit of Japanese with them. They were a part of a bus tour group and traveling together for the past few days from Shizuoka. They were quite adorable. They asked me where I lived in Japan and I told them Fukui. They looked at me confused and then I had to explain to them where Fukui was. You know you live in the inaka¬†(countryside) when japanese people don’t even know the place you live in.

Saying goodbye to my new old man friends I stopped in a local tea shop because I was tired from all my walking and got a traditional matcha tea set (green tea). It was a bit overpriced but good.

The next area I walked to was a bit far called Naramachi.

Its a traditional old streets that have a ton of cafe’s, tea shops, and traditional japanese restaurants. These roads were beautiful and impossible to navigate. I tried for a little while and then gave up. I just let myself get totally lost in them. I stopped at a lovely garden and had a cup of tea and carrot cake. It was fantastic place really quaint and beautiful. I have no idea how to tell you to get there since I was good and lost at this point but if you ever stumble across this place. It’s definitely worth a stop in.

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I got some lovely writing done in my notebook and it was perfect weather for sitting in their garden outback.

 

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If your lucky enough to wander past this cafe you should totally stop. It was beautiful. Hope I make it back there someday.

 

I went to a few more cafes and got cups of tea and coffee wanting to sample a bit of everything . When the late afternoon arrived I started trying to navigate my way out of my lostness and made my way back to the train station.

It’s funny. Although Nara was exactly what I expected, old less than exciting buildings, a giant buddha, and menace deer, I was completely charmed by the city anyways. The atmosphere is lovely. Its a small town with all the old world charm, romance, and mystery of Kyoto without the city’s hustle and bustle. I could see myself going back again one day just to enjoy getting lost in it.

I think it was also a perfect choice for my first sight seeing adventure of my own. Its a lovely day for a quiet afternoon and I got so much good writing and daydreaming done! a successful solo trip!

Nara you win. You are lovely.

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