I had another two days off! Time to do something besides just chilling at “home”.
But the first day was basically that. Until 2pm I was in my room, to chill, clean and do my homework. In the afternoon I met Brittany, a friend from work, in the city. We wanted to get lunch together.
She brought me to a local Sushi place. This kind of concept is very popular and definitely something you should try when visiting Japan. When entering the restaurant, you get a number, which shows where your seat will be. The sushi comes all the time on a treadmill and you can pick whatever you like. Everyone has a display in front of him as well, where you can order the sushi you want to eat. Therefore, you can make sure that the food is freshly made for you. We only chose this option. When your food comes by, the display rings. Besides sushi you can order noodle dishes, soup or desserts. At the end you pay by the number of plates you have on your table. The price of your item you eat is shown by the colour or shape of the plate. A very unique and fantastique concept. You can order as much and as long as you want. The price is very reasonable and the quality quite high. For one plate you pay from 100-200 yen which is around 1 – 2 €. Furthermore, you get as much green tea as you wish for free.
Brittany is half American, half Japanese. She lives already 16 years in Kyoto and is therefore a real local. She knows basically everything, including the language. Nevertheless, everyone thinks she is a foreigner. The men next to us thought we were both tourists and tried to speak with us in English until he understood that she is Japanese. That’s kind of an issue here in Japan. As long as you don’t look Japanese, you will never be a proper part of the community, even if you speak the language.
After our lunch we just walked through the shopping district, went to different shops and looked what Kyoto has to offer. We even found a Lindt shop. It is more international than I thought at the beginning. At the end we went to an American diner next to the cinema. The atmosphere is just like in the American movies or series. Afterwards I just walked back home and went to bed.
At the next morning I met Nydia around 8:30 at the entrance of my building. We headed together to Kyoto station and from there to Nara. Nara is a very popular destination for tourists. The train was super crowded. We didn’t get a seat and needed to stand the whole time, which was kind of annoying. The train ride took around 50 minutes.
From Nara station we walked to Nara park, which is why Nara is so popular. Nara is especially known for the deer, which are walking through the whole park. I was wondering if they would be actually there or if it is just one deer somewhere in the corner. But no! We arrived and the deer were everywhere. So many and none of them scared of us humans. The deer in Nara are seen as animals from god. But don’t ask my why.
We saw many temples and shrines as well. Kasuga-Taisha Shrine is little bit further from the park centre, but the way through the forest is very beautiful and peaceful. We didn’t actually payed to go inside but walked around to see the overall place. If it would have been just me, I would have probably walked to Mount Wakakusa, but Nydia is not the person who loves to walk that much.
Therefore, we headed back to see the park centre and Todaiji Temple. The park is very beautiful and Nara just completely different than Kyoto. You could feel that Kyoto is a very populated city with not only tourists and locals, but also business people. Nara is just more relaxed, has much more space and is very quiet in comparison with Kyoto. Really worth a visit! But therefore, there is not so much to see as well. I have the feeling that you could be in Kyoto for months and you still haven’t seen everything. In Nara it is enough to stay one to two days. A day trip like we did is perfect.
Before discovering the Todaiji Temple area more we wanted to find a restaurant for lunch. On TripAdvisor we found a nice-looking place and headed to this area. We were really lucky when we arrived. The last free table was ours. After 5 minutes there was a queue in front of the restaurant. The food was amazing! Especially the starter plate was incredible. Our favourite was the homemade tofu. We didn’t know what to say. It was the most delicious thing I probably ever tried. And I know, tofu doesn’t sound like it could be delicious, but this was a completely different product I’ve never seen and tasted before. Incredible. The sushi was amazing as well. You could taste the high-quality products and the preparation knowledge. The salad with the cracker in the middle was a cheese-potatoe mixture which tasted with the strawberry lovely. For the main dish, we ordered soba noodles. I haven’t tried soba in Japan yet, therefore it was a really good opportunity to try them. You dip the noodles in the broth and slurp them right away. They were good, but not the best noodles I had. The starter plate was definitely the star.
Afterwards we headed back to the temple area. We passed a local mochi shop, where we needed to go inside. Nara is known for their special mochi. We tried different flavours. The texture is so gooey and soft and the actual product not so sweet as the usual desserts we know. In general, you can’t compare Asian dessert with European ones. It is just completely different.
Back at Todaiji Temple I decided to go inside. Nydia waited outside. She is from Indosesia and temples are something that are not so special to her. It is like for me a church. The main reason for me to go inside was my little book I bought the day before. Apparently, you can go to different temples to get a signature. I got the “stamp”! A Japanese man painted it in front of me in my book. I was so impressed! The temple inside was amazing. A huge, huge buddha greeted you when you entered the building. Really worth a visit!
Afterwards, we both just walked a bit around and headed back to the station. I could have spent definitely a bit longer here just to relax in the park. The Sakura trees are already gone, must of them. Nevertheless, it is a really lovely place.
After the train ride back, where we got a seat, I used the opportunity to go shopping in the supermarket at Kyoto station. That’s the best place to buy some more international food options. Expensive, but well! Afterwards I went back home, where else Nydia met her aunt. I made dinner, skyped with my family and watched a movie. It was a nice weekend. And I am hoping that I will have more of them.