The 'Deer' City
of Nara...
February 22, 2008

Osaka has loads of options for day-trips. I wasn’t really sure where I was going when I headed out the door. But since there was a train
that went directly to Nara from my train station, it was a no-brainer. Nara it was.

I absolutely enjoyed my day out there. All I knew before going was that there were deer that you could feed. In my mind I thought it
was going to be a borderline zoo. To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting much.

It only took 30 minutes to get there. And it only took a stroll down a main street to eventually hit all of the sights. Way too easy!

The first place I went to was a temple complex called Kofukuji. It was my reintroduction back into Japanese temples – complete with its
five-story pagoda. From there I went to Nara Park (or more commonly called ‘Deer Park’). My timing was impeccable as within two
minutes of being there, a man with a horn and his trusty sidekick (wearing an antler headband – no joke) began calling the deer by
playing whatever instrument it was that he had. Can we say ‘cuteness’ about how all of the deer started running from all areas to this
square? Breakfast was served (though by the looks of their bodies, some deer definitely get more food than others). While these deer
are wild, they are as tame as can be. You can pet them just like puppy dogs. I even saw one wander into a store. Maybe he was looking
for a souvenir to buy a long-lost deer relative in another part of Japan? The shopkeeper didn't even mind him being a possible customer.

After watching the deer eat, I went to the Todaji Temple. I was able to follow the protocol of washing my hands and drinking a bit of the
water before entering because of my knack for eavesdropping on other people’s guides. I also burned my stick of incense and gave a
small donation and then I was on my way in. To the Buddhas I would go. I say that because this temple is not only known for being
wooden, but also for its massive Buddhas. It all was coming back to me about how much I enjoyed these temples when I was here two
years ago. But I also remember burning out on Japanese temples so I think I am going to have to just stick to one or two in each city I
go to.

From there I did some deer stalking. Many Japanese people got a kick out of me doing self-portraits with deer. I think one girl finally
felt sorry for me and offered to take some pictures for me. I also took advantage of some of the Japanese street food here. I can only
guess what the first thing was – but I have deduced that it was a skewer of grilled mountain potatoes balls with a teriyaki-like glaze on
it. Pretty tasty – especially in the cold weather. The other thing I wanted to try was the rice ball with mushrooms wrapped in mountain
potato dough. Not bad. Not bad at all.

From the park, I went to wander around in the old section of Nara. I loved it. It’s so fun zig-zagging through the small streets and
alleyways with all of the traditional Japanese architecture complete with the
ryokans and the small restaurants serving the kaiseki
meals. It all felt so familiar from last time (as it reminded me a bit of Kyoto) yet it feels like it was so much longer ago than just two

By mid-afternoon I was back on a train heading to Osaka. I definitely didn’t need more than a day in Nara – but it was wonderful while
I was there.

I decided to check out the Umeda area of Osaka – this is the area with the big department stores, the European designer stores
(complete with beyond-cool storefronts/buildings) and high-end hotels. The only thing in my price range was the stuff in the food halls.
The sushi blew me away – and it was all quite cheap. I got two incredibly fresh maki rolls (one with tuna and one with salmon) and it
cost less than $4 in total. Incredible. There were also endless other options. But I decided to get a bit of my sushi fix in.

I went down the main street. No, I couldn’t afford anything here. But walking around this part of the city further confirmed how much I
like it here.

My last stop was in Namba – definitely the place to be at night. I saw more of it than I did last night. This is one of those areas where
everything is a photo opp – whether it’s the clothes the girls are wearing to the street food to the signs to the neon lights. It’s hard to get
enough. I decided on an Osaka street food specialty – octopus balls. Watching them be made is something of a sightseeing event in itself.
But they are quite tasty little morsels. I can’t tell you exactly what they are made of except that there is a piece of octopus in each one.
Such is the fun of Japanese food – you really never do quite know what you are putting in your mouth but most of the time the flavors
will blow you away.

Now I am back at my hotel. I just came back from the public women’s bath. And it turned out to be somewhat ‘private’ as I was the only
person down there. Felt like soaking in a hot tub. Ahhh… Needless to say, I am quite relaxed right now.

In the morning I will figure out where I am going. Not in the mood to think about it right now.
Back to Japan.
A deer wondering what is in my bag.
In the old part of town.
Many o' deer coming for a feeding..