Nara

This is me writing about Japan but before you close your window, this is the last one to conclude my 2014 trip. Nara is a town located 45 minutes from Osaka by train. If you happen to be in Osaka there really is no reason why you wouldn’t visit Nara. A main draw to it besides the calm, the abundance of heritage buildings and the incredibly famous mochi-man, is of course the deer.

The first time I ever heard of Nara, I remember lauding the brilliance of Kishimoto. I instantly understood the namesake of one of my favourite characters in Naruto, Nara Shikamaru. Like the town itself, the Nara clan in the manga had strong ties to deer. And of course the name ‘shika’ 鹿 itself means deer in Japanese.

P1040170-1
A 100 yen store located near the train station stocks an abundance of Kumamon paraphernalia for all your Kumamon party needs.

P1040172-2
The mochi-man who’s gone viral on YouTube! The speed and rhythm was incredible, with the danger of losing your fingers adding to the excitement.

P1040176-3
Of course after such a spectacle, people are lining up to buy the mocha which is so undeniably delicious especially while it’s still warm and your surroundings are freezing. P1040179-4
Shikamaru-kun is also the name of Nara’s yuru-kyara. His expression is one of perpetual bliss which I find very apt. If Osaka is the birthplace of Osaka-ben and gruff gestures (at least by Japanese standards), Nara bears semblance to it’s much kinder and more 優しい younger brother.

P1040181-5

P1040193-11
It was quite an overcast day that day which meant most of my photos had a soft glow. It was almost as though heaven had held up a white tarp to diffuse the sun’s rays.

P1040196-1
It’s easy to romanticise about Japan because Japan is romantic. Not like the spin-dizziness of France, the sultry sexiness of Italy or the sensible pragmatism of England. If Japan was my lover, they would be the pot plant on my windowsill. I am here, they would say. And to just co-exist simply and side-by-side is what I would argue to be the greatest kind of love.

P1040197-2 P1040199-3 P1040203-4 P1040206-5 P1040208-6 P1040216-1
I don’t have many photos of myself this post, but check out my mom who was absolutely giddy with euphoria over getting to observe and occasionally pat the extremely docile deer.

P1040218-2
I truly wonder how the population of humans compares to the population of deer in Nara. It really isn’t a large town after all. To have them just roaming around and doing their deer-thing seems like such an odd Murakami-esque place.

P1040224-3 P1040229-4 P1040230-5 P1040234-1 P1040236-2 P1040237-3 P1040238-4 P1040241-5
Much like the rest of Japan, Nara too has it’s own specialty foods that are packaged in such a cute manner it’s really hard to resist.

P1040243-6
We absolutely could not pass up the opportunity to try some kakinohasushi or pressed sushi wrapped in persimmon leaves.

P1040247-7 P1040248-1
The taste is very distinct to regular sushi. There’s the added fragrance from being wrapped in the leaf plus a slight sweetness in the rice too. Also note that there is a lot more rice than there is fish compared to regular sushi

P1040249-2 P1040252-3 P1040256-4
Stepping out to one of the main shop streets we caught the tail-end (no pun intended) of who must be Nara’s resident deer whisperer. Unless his jacket was made from the deer cookies we bought, I can’t really explain why they were following him in such a way.

P1040258-5 P1040259-6
I confess that shrines upon temples upon places of prayer start to blur into one for me. En route to one of the above, mom is tempted by a vendor peddling roasted yams. I perch close by trying to take advantage of the heat source.

P1040262-7

P1040277-5
Mom’s love for deer is reciprocated shortly after this. I had moved further ahead to get some good photos of a shrine and apparently one of the deer began to follow her in pursuit of her yam. She ended up getting followed to a clearing where tourists were able to witness (and take photos) of this deer nipping her behind.

P1040266-1 P1040269-2 P1040272-3 P1040279-1
It wouldn’t be a post on Japan without food photos to stack against any amount of tourist photos. If you think mom and I are obsessed with yakitori then you are right. It is so much more than meat on a stick in Japan. I had such strong cravings for yakitori when I got back to Sydney but even in multi-cultural Australia was I continuously disappointed.

P1040282-2
Mom tends to go for the spare parts, livers, hearts, giblets and the like.

P1040283-3 P1040289-4 P1040293-5
I’m not squeamish and often steal bites from her. This of course ends up being stealing whole sticks considering the size of the portions. But I never, never pass up the opportunity to get mentaiko with chicken breast.

P1040294-6 P1040299-7 P1040305-8 P1040311-9
This particular restaurant however completely blew me away with their duck tsukune. Like in the name of all that is holy and sacred, this was so good. I think I took a video of me just drenching the ball of meat in egg yolk. The kind of sight that makes my eyes weep with joy.

P1040315-10 P1040318-11

The rest of these photos are just miscellaneous photos taken on our last day in Osaka.

P1040326-2
It is on this day that I absolutely cave. You win ice queen and snow king of Japan’s winter. I beg my mom to lend me her thick bubble coat which I wear with three other layers underneath.

P1040336-1
Mom had been craving for beef for awhile now, something we couldn’t really satiate while my stepdad was travelling with us as he doesn’t eat beef. So here we are at the yakiniku place opposite the yakitori place from the day before!

P1040341-1 P1040343-1
I’m a big fan of mushrooms and mom loves corn. We opt for some of the meat to also be cooked shabu-shabu style. Mom far prefers the simple flavours of shabu-shabu to the sticky sweetness of (beef teriyaki simmer dish). It’s literally just meat boiled in this water/kombu stock pot.

P1040347-1 P1040350-2
Do you want some meat with your fat? The marbling was out of this world. A little bit much for me personally but that just meant more for mom.

P1040353-3 P1040365-1
I don’t know what we did after but according to the timestamps on my camera, we had pancakes. This was at a café inside the department store. They looked good but I didn’t think they were anything special. My grandma by far makes the best pancakes after all.

P1040368-1
One last amble down the busy streets of Osaka and we wind up in the Sanrio Gallery. Hello Kitty will always be king but strong contenders in terms of popularity nowadays are Gudetama and Kirimi-chan, a lazy egg and a salmon fillet on legs respectively.

P1040369-2 P1040370-1 P1040371-2 P1040372-3 P1040374-3 P1040379-1 P1040383-1 P1040389-2
We end up at Fuki Nuki again, the Osaka branch of the place we had Christmas lunch at in Tokyo. I splurged on getting one of the pricier pieces of eel and discovered.. that it tasted exactly the same. Was pretty bummed. Guess my palate is yet to discern between eel quality?

P1040391-3 P1040399-1 P1040404-1
Despite being extremely full, mom and I both attempt to eat my new Gudetama phone case.

P1040416-2
Ending the night with the only soft serve I ended up having during that Japan trip, a travesty if there ever was one since Japan is home to things like soy sauce and tofu soft serve. This was houjicha and it was incredible.

P1040415-1

P1040405-1
I still cherish Tokyo as one of my favourite cities in the world, but it was nice to explore somewhere new. Going with the old adage, I do think the food in Osaka was slightly yummier overall? Whereas Tokyo’s food is a bit more commercial, as you’d expect of their major capital and home to a multitude of cultures. Regardless, the fact is that Japan is the only country where I will voluntarily eat their convenient store food on a daily basis. All of these posts have been somewhat disjointed because I’ve been weaving them into regular daily posts. If you read them all at once and in chronological succession you’d probably notice lots of similar words and phrases. But I guess just like every trip to Japan opens me up to new things, writing about it each time rekindles a fondness each time too. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Japan and why I love it so much.

Japanese Dreams
Tokyo and Ueno
Sushi Sho Saito
Mount Fuji and Yakitori
メリクリ in Japan
Osaka
Osaka Part 2 and Pokemon Centre
Nara

samanthawxlow

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *