16 hours straight of sightseeing with 25kms walked in total (so says the iphone tracking app) … our first full day in Japan was nothing short of amazingly intense. Wide awake at 4am and out the door at 5am, we explored the quiet streets of Kyoto’s Gion district: the neighbourhood where our AirBnB “Nene house” is located and the area famous for geisha.
Our morning mission was to locate the 24hr open Foodmart to grab some eggs, fruit and whatever else appealed to us for breakfast. That is until we stumbled across vending machines sent down from the heavens! All our problems were solved.
With oatmeal, eggs and fruit filling our bellies, we caught a short train ride to the Fushimi Inari Shrine with its thousands of torii gates that line a hiking path up the mountainside.
As Viola blew out her knee on this hike during our previous visit to Japan, she decided to be cautious and opted out of hiking the final steeper loop. “I’ll wait just down there and read my Kindle” were the famous last words as we returned with Viola nowhere to be found.
Ever increasing anxiety ensued as we double backed on the various trails only to find her 20mins later on a bench well beyond any reasonable distance. And who got blamed for not listening? I’ll leave that up to the imagination …
Reunited (and it feels so good)! What better way to calm the nerves then our first cappuccinos of the trip.
Lunch was simple: udon with tempura shrimp, and a side of annoying doorbell that rang every time a person so much as walked by the restaurant. The noodle shop we intended to enjoy, with open air serene views of the valley and torii gate path below, was closed when we initially hiked up, closed when we hiked back down, and closed when we returned after coffee to specifically eat there. At 11:20 the elderly owner stated closed and gave Andrew the arm gesture of an X. CLOSED! Sure enough, after finishing our udon at the neighbouring restaurant, we walked by and it was absolutely OPEN with people savouring their meals!
Another local train ride from the shrine and we were in the city of Nara, overrun with friendly, freely roaming deer, considered the messengers of the gods.
Biscuits to feed the deer, sure! Raise the treat above their head to encourage them to bow, then reward them for their graciousness.
All this talk of treats made us hungry. Freshly pounded mochi (sticky rice) with red bean paste inside was delicious!
Besides the deer, the great Buddha of Todai-ji temple is one of Nara’s top sights to visit.
Overheated and running on empty it was time for a cold coffee. Vending machines in the middle of the forest, a deer beside us not caring: this unusual situation sure became normalized quickly!
Re-energized, we made our way into the botanical garden. With cherry blossoms long passed it was wisteria’s time to shine!
Leaving Nara park we gave our final farewell bow to the deer …
Unagi! Dinner in Nara was at a restaurant that specialized in grilled eel and it did not disappoint! Satiated and borderline delirious from exhaustion we grabbed an evening train back to Kyoto. And just for good measure, as if our day had not been long enough, my poor pronunciation of the station name resulted in us missing our stop …