For my last night in Kyoto (which was last night), I went back to Isetan’s 11th floor. This time I went back to my chicken and pizza places for a second raid. Good stuff.
Later that night my stomach paid me back in spades. That’s why I bring the Pink Stuff with me on a trip. (In pill form so I don’t have to taste it.)
I don’t think I’m going to be eating any weird sushi anytime soon.
I Ship and Ship, and Nothing Changes!
Today was a travel and sightseeing day. But first, I shipped another 20 lbs. of stuff I don’t need back home.
I keep sending these giant boxes home, yet my suitcase doesn’t get smaller. I don’t understand it at all. I’ve sent 40 pounds of junk home. 3.5 cubic feet. Where did I carry it all?!? It’s a mystery that bugs me, and it also frightens me a little.
Getting to the post office was fun. The hotel let me borrow a bicycle for 30 minutes for free, and I put the giant box in the basket. I had to hold on to the box while I tried to steer.
I checked out and went to the tourism office in Kyoto Station to reserve a hotel in Osaka on the nights of the 2nd and the 3rd of November. I found a nice and cheap hotel, which makes me all warm and fuzzy. Thank you, Welcome Inn Reservation Center! The only downside is that the only Internet is in a “Business Room” I have to go to to use. I don’t know how much I’m going to use that, so I’ll probably be incommunicado.
I think I’m going to go to Beppu after all. I know, I’m cutting it way too close, but I think I should be able to swing a room somewhere.
Off to Nara
It took about 45 minutes by train to get to Nara from Kyoto. I met some nice Americans on the train. They were a couple who live in Kyoto traveling with their twins, and the husband’s parents. They were nice people, and the screaming toddlers kept me from sleeping and missing my stop.
Right now JR Nara Station is pretty basic. There are no escalators, and no elevators. I think they’re in the middle of renovations or something.
Either way, it was a pain to lug the big case up those stairs. Down is easy… that’s just a controlled crash down the stairs. Since I got there 2 hours before I could check in, it was time to scope out some coin lockers. (コインロッカー in Japanese, by the way. Just say “Coin Rocka,” and you’re close enough.)
I lucked out as a couple of Australian guys were unloading their big locker, and snagged it. One of them even gave me 100 yen because all I had was 300 yen and a 500 yen coin, and I needed 5x 100 yen coins.
But I was still 100 yen short.
Let me go back to Japanese money for a second. Should you choose to go to Japan, hold on to as many 100 yen coins as you can. They are THE most useful coins. Everything else will betray you at one point. Take my 500 yen coin. Even though the locker costs 500 yen, it doesn’t accept 500 yen coins. Nor will it accept anything other than 100 yen coins. And getting change can be troublesome. Some places won’t give you change for even small things like a 500 yen coin. Very annoying. So hoard those 100 yen coins.
After a few tries, I finally found someone who would give me change, so I got a locker. Then I realized my other bag wouldn’t fit, so I decided to try the electronic lockers, but I couldn’t get the machine to read my plastic. I went back to the other lockers for an old-fashioned one that took coins.
Why all the talk about lockers? Because if you travel a lot in Japan, you’ll probably need them at some point. They’re very, very handy.
My luggage secured, I went in search of the main thing I came to Nara for: some NICE calligraphy brushes. Nara is a traditional home for good calligraphy brushes in Japan. I found 2 nice medium-sized horsehair brushes for about 6,300 yen total, and a nice big one for 5,000 yen. I’m set for a while now.
I strolled some more, then when it was time to check in, I went to my hotel, the Nara Royal Hotel. This is a very nice place, with a low price for the luxury you get. 8,500-9,500 yen a night for a single, and it’s big for a Japanese single hotel room. There’s even an onsen/spa in the basement, which I’m going to try out very soon.
It also has HDTV in the room. It’s not a crummy one either; it’s a Sharp Aquos.
Then it was off to see some sights.
Sightseeing in Nara
Someone decided centuries ago that the deer here were a sign of good fortune, and they became sacred. Sacred animals lead a charmed life, and can merrily poop and act out wherever they want to. This is a Bad Thing, in my opinion. It’s bad because the animals become pampered and spoiled, and act really obnoxious.
And did I mention the poop? It’s everywhere. I had to dodge it constantly, so instead of looking at the sights, I was watching my feet.
From now on, whenever I think of Nara, I will always think of deer poop, and the smell of lots and lots of deer poop. It’s kind of hard not to.
I took a train to Kintetsu Nara Station, and started taking pictures and walking towards Kasuga Taisha Shrine.
A fountain with a statue of a Buddhist priest whose name escapes me:
A shopping arcade along the way:
This is just telling you not to mess with them. Period.
And finally, some deer!
A shrine entrance that looked interesting, but I had to skip it for time reasons. Himuro Jinja:
And a really pretty lantern with some fall colors:
Kasuga Taisha Shrine
I made it to the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, another World Heritage Site, just in time. It closes at 4:30 p.m., so I had to hustle to get there. I made it in time to see most of it. It was gorgeous.
Rows of lanterns:
A deer-shaped washing area:
The entrance to the Honsha, where you go pray:
A tiny bridge nearby:
Another lantern-lined path:
This path takes you to Wakamiya Shrine. I didn’t follow it:
A Komainu, one of the stone shrine guardians:
Heading to Todaiji temple:
Todaiji Temple, or The Reason Why I Travel
I walked to Todaiji Temple, home of the Daibutsuden Hall, where there is an enormous wooden statue of Buddha. This place was awe-inspiring. This is the reason I travel, and put up with things like insanely-heavy luggage, deer poop, and weird food making me sick. It’s hard to put into words. It’s just… wow. This is a definite must-see. I lingered there until they kicked me out at 5 p.m. sharp. I was the last one out of the temple as they closed the doors.
And now, pictures!
Approaching Todaiji, there’s another row of shops. Busy doing business. You can already see the outer gate (the Dainanmon). It’s massive.
Getting closer (lots of deer around here):
The Dainanmon up close and personal:
Inside the Dainanmon, there are two giant wooden statues. Here’s one of them:
Past the Dainanmon is an area around the central gate, or Chuumon. You can see the Daibutsuden behind it. It’s the bigger building.
And here’s the Chuumon. Can’t go through it. Have to pay admission.
And here’s the Daibutsuden, where the giant wooden statue of Buddha is located:
Incense burner outside:
The Daibutsu. This photo just doesn’t do it justice.
Neither does this one. But it was the best I could do. The light was wretched, and I’m using a point-and-shoot camera.
Change the angle? Not really helping. Losing the light in a dark place. Go and see it yourself! It’s massive and incredible!
Time to go. They’re shutting the gates behind me. No, really, they’re shutting the gates!
Lots of good pictures again. I’m up to well over 1,700 total.
Then it was back to the hotel for dinner. I’m not sure what I’m going to do next. Maybe I’ll hit the spa.
One not-so-good part–there’s zero cell reception in the hotel for either network. Not much I can do about that. I’d say of the hotels I’ve stayed in so far in Japan, this is the nicest one so far, although the Comfort Inn and the other business hotels all had coin laundries, this one doesn’t, and I need to do some washing again. Temps are still in the mid-70s, and I’m sweating like a pig. (In case you needed to know that.)
Last photo, because I love this cup:
Be relieved, and use it!
Tomorrow is a big travel day to Hiroshima. I’ll be there two nights, then if I’m lucky, I’ll go to Beppu. (Fingers crossed on that reservation…)