|East and West Breakfast at the Nikko Nara|
Nara is known for a few things. It was the capitol city on and off again, the longest stretch of which was about 70 years. According to wikipedia, during the shogunate, it was common practice to move the imperial residence every time a prominent member of the family died, for fear of angering the dead relative's ghost by sticking around. That means there were a lot of imperial residences, though most of them were made of wood and very few have survived. Nara is most famous for Nara park, which houses a few very important Buddhist temples and a *lot* of deer.
|The Nara Deer are everywhere in the park|
The first temple we visited was just off the main road, and featured a famous five-story pagoda, second tallest in all of Japan next to Toji temple in Kyoto. We free English speaking tour guide came up to us and gave us a verbal tour of the elements that make up the pagoda and we learned a bit about how the temple is designed to withstand earthquakes by allow the different floors to shift around the main support beam in different directions.
After the pagoda we walked through the park and visited the largest wooden building in the world - the Daibutsuden (great Buddha hall) at the Todaiji temple complex.
|The giant Buddha at Daibutsuden|
Todaiji is connected to several other shrines and temples in Nara park via a path through the forest, parts of which are lined with beautiful old lanterns. In some areas, these lanterns are covered in moss and ferns - the whole area looks like something out of a fantasy movie. Many of the lanterns are also covered in paper, and we wondered if they lit the whole thing up at night. It seems unlikely now, but one can imagine they used to do this with oil reservoirs and the path must have seemed very mystical indeed. From Todaiji we walked along the base of Wakasuka Hill where more deer were hanging out.
|The Lantern lined path leading to Kasuga Taisha|
It was early afternoon, and there was still one specific site we wanted to see in Nara, on the other side of town. We hopped on a tourist bus, which was a slower trip but cost about half as much as the city bus. We were bound for the site of the old Imperial Palace in Nara, which was excavated in the 1970s and relatively neglected until the early 2000's when the Japanese government decided to reconstruct (based on paintings and, to be honest, a whole lot of guessing) how the main building of the palace would have appeared in its hey day. There was a festival going on at the site but we never actually figured out what it was. There was food carts however, and in the end, food carts are all that matters.
This time I decided to get a little crazy and try a Korean street food called Pa Jeun, which are scallion pancakes. This was served with a flaming hot kimchi, possibly the hottest I've ever experienced. It was a great combination with the mild, oniony pancake. We also had some pour-over coffee, because daddy needs his coffee. The hot coffee actually played surprisingly nicely with the kimchee.
|The Daigokuden, the recreated central building of the|
Imperial Palace at Nara
Around 5:30 we boarded another local line train to Osaka. We once again transitioned from city to country to city, and were left in Osaka itself, a much bigger city than Nara by far - the third largest in Japan after Tokyo and Yokohama. We followed our hosts very specific instructions to our airBnB home for the next three nights. It's another nice apartment, very quiet, just outside the Dotonburi shopping/nightlife district, so it's pretty much perfect.
|Fried things on sticks at Daruma|
Tomorrow we have little planned. It's supposed to rain all day, so we're going to try to do indoor things and have a sort of off-day so we can wind down a bit. I might combine tomorrow and the next day into one report. Anyway, off to do more things!