Japan Trip Report: Nara

Life is getting back to normal — all the holiday decor is slowly getting packed away (yes, I realize it’s mid-January) and we’re trying to refocus on organizing and decluttering the house. Never an easy task since Rob & I both have messy pack rat tendencies. Wish us luck!

And today is my blog’s 11th birthday! CRAZY, right? I had no idea when I started this blog out of boredom back in 2002, I’d still be here calling this tiny part of the interwebz my home. WOW.

Anyway, here’s another installment of my Japan trip report — this time a day trip to Nara!

Sunday, 11/11

We woke up to rain. BOO! Not unexpected (we packed umbrellas) but annoying anyway.

Because of the rain, the Kyoto station was PACKED with everyone trying to stay dry.

Coffee came from Cafe du Monde again — still disappointed there are no beignets. I guess this means a trip to New Orleans is in order.

We used our JR passes again and took the subway to Nara, which is about 45 minutes away. Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan and is known for Nara Park and its many significant temples.

Upon arrival in Nara, we found that the rain hadn’t let up. And it was so overcast. GRRR.

To get to Nara Park, it’s about a 20 minute walk down Sanjo-dori, which is a major street that’s partly closed off to traffic and has a variety of shops and restaurants.

Along the way we encountered an Amusement Cue that naturally distracted Rob. We checked it out and found claw games, pachinko slots, and other random arcade games. We didn’t stop to play, though.

The rain was progressively getting worse so we ducked into a covered shopping alley to get away from the rain, find a clean bathroom, and have a warm meal.

We ended up at McDonald’s. LOL. We usually like to try menu items that we can’t get stateside but we couldn’t find the English menu so we both ended up with our usuals (filet o’fish for me).

After lunch we found that the rain hadn’t stopped but we sucked it up and continued on to Nara Park. As soon as we got to the boundary of the park we started to see the deer (just like in Miyajima!).

Throughout the park there are various stands that sell deer cookies to tourists. Rob wanted to get some to feed the deer.

The deer go CRAZY when they see people with the cookies. They started harassing Rob and one of them even bit his shirt! BWAH.


Within Nara Park is the Todaiji Temple, which is where we were headed to see the Big Buddha.

The Nandaimon Gate signals the approach to the temple.

We saw these signs warning tourists to beware of the deer. I guess they can knock people down! WOW.

We finally reached Todaiji Temple’s main hall…

with the Big Buddha inside!

Along with a couple of smaller buddhas on either side.

This was a pillar with a hole at the bottom that people were trying to squeeze through. There was no signage around so I had no idea why they were doing that or what it meant. I later learned that if you manage to get through the hole, then you are granted a place in heaven. We saw a hilarious group of guys trying to pull each other through. LOL.

After just a few hours in Nara, we decided to head back to Kyoto. Unfortunately, the rain really put a damper on the day. It was pouring hard enough that it was difficult to look around and truly enjoy the park. All we wanted to do was find cover — we were getting soaked!

We picked up a couple of chocolate croissants from Choco Cro (a chain bakery with pretty damn amazing croissants) and headed back to the station to hop on the train.

For dinner, we were back at the Kyoto station. When I was planning the trip, I found some great restaurant reviews on Paul’s Travel Pics (this whole blog is a great travel resource). One place we definitely wanted to try was Katsukura, which specializes in tonkatsu.

Katsukura has a few locations in Kyoto but conveniently there is a restaurant on the 11th floor of the Kyoto station. The line looked looooong at first but it was super organized. They take your order ahead of time and then seat you in order of the line.

It was probably one of the BEST dinners of the trip. Rob & I both had a filet cutlet and then a different side (I had a crab cream croquette and Rob had a potato). The meal also included a cabbage salad with the YUMMIEST yuzu dressing (citrus), miso soup, barley rice and green tea.

We waddled over to Yodobashi Camera to browse (Rob wanted to check out the toys, hehe). It’s basically a HUGE department store — like a Target AND Best Buy combined and on steroids. There’s multiple floors and a staggering amount of choices by product (there was a whole aisle dedicated to men’s shavers, for example). I think it took us 2 nights to walk through the entire store, LOL.

Back at the hotel, we had a couple of drinks at the Moonlight Bar (ok, Rob did — I had a Shirley Temple, heh) before we called it a night. Had to rest up for our last full day in Kyoto.

Up next: More Kyoto.

For more pics, check our Flickr here.