Saturday, September 30, 2023

Japan 2023 ✈ Oh Deer Nara

We had originally planned to visit Japan in June 2020. Over the last 3 years, we had cancelled and rebooked this trip multiple times as Japan was one of the last few countries to reopen its borders to tourism post-Covid. After waiting for 3 years, we were glad to finally make this trip happen this year! This trip has been 3 years in the making and I must say Japan certainly lived up to our anticipation!

18 Apr 2023 (Tues): Osaka - Nara - Koshien Stadium - Osaka

Our 2nd morning in Japan started slightly later at 9.15am with another sumptuous free breakfast at the hotel before heading out for sightseeing at 10am.

 Took the subway from Hommachi to Namba station. Used day #1 of our 3-day Kansai Thru Pass as we were traveling quite a distance to Nara. Besides, the Kansai Thru Pass is very easy to use as it covers many different train lines (excluding all JR trains) which covers majority of the public transportation lines in the Kansai region.

Followed the Nara signs at Namba station to connect to the Kintetsu Nara Line. There were signs on the floor to indicate where to board the train from but I am pretty sure most tourists don't follow these!

We boarded at the first stop so there were plenty of space to sit for the 40 min train ride.

Arrived Kintetsu Nara Station at 11am. Welcome to Nara! 

Nara is known for the deers and indeed, we spotted deers everywhere just a short 5 minutes walk from the train station. The deers at Nara Deek Park roam around freely. These 'Japanese' deers are very well-mannered and kept bowing to request for crackers. They certainly are not afraid of people at all and we even saw one headbutting a kid who got too close to it. Most of the deers were chill and polite, but there were signs reminding tourists to be careful as the deers are wild animals and can attack people occassionally. :)

As you can see, we kept our distance from the deers but the deer would just walk up close to!

We (intentionally) missed the cherry blossom season to avoid the crowd by traveling in April but was lucky to still see some cherry blossom trees blooming in Nara.

After getting entertained by deers for about 30 minutes, we continued our sightseeing at Todai-ji Temple. This temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it also serves as the Japanese headquarters of the Kegon school of Buddhism.

Entered the Todai-ji temple complex from the Nandai-mon Gate, with two huge guardian figures on both sides.

Todai-ji is a Buddhist temple complex made up of several buildings. One of the main building is the Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsuden), which houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha. There is a ¥600 admission fee to enter but it was good enough to see it from the outside so we decided to skip it.

Todai-ji temple was a big complex indeed, and the deers are roaming around here too! These deers are the smart ones hanging around right next to the cracker!

Todai-ji Shoro (Bell Tower)

Cool buildings as we walked along the path to Nigatsu-do Hall.

Nigatsu-do Hall is located on the hillside of Mount Wakakusa wih a good view of Nara. There are big white lanterns hanging around the temple.

Even though we had to walk quite a bit around the Todai-ji temple complex, many pathways were shaded with trees, which made it a pleasant walk. We were also there during spring so the weather was nice and cool. 

Deers everywhere in Nara...literally!

The Kasuga-Taisha 'orange' shrine with many hanging gold and bronze lanterns.

Stone lanterns around Kasuga-Taisha shrine. Entering through the Keiga Gate, there is a wisteria tree called "Sunazuri-no-Fuji" (wisteria flowers dropping down to reach the ground). The wisteria flowers bloom from late April until early May.

After spending about 2.5 hours walking around Todai-ji, we wrapped up our tour of Nara with a final stop at Kofuku-ji Temple around 2.20pm.

We saw a few big groups of students in Nara... was it school field trip season?

That's a wrap for our 4 hours visit of Nara. Time to hop back onto the train for an hour to our next destination...Hanshin Koshien Stadium for our first Japanese baseball game! I guess schools ended around 3pm as we saw quite a lot of students on the train. The elementary school students looked cute in their uniforms and school bags. Also spotted a Hanshin Tigers fan on the train. We were confused by his fashion initially but found out later that he's just a big fan of Hanshin! 

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