I watched Chad get bucked by a deer in the park in Nara, Japan. He bought some crackers to feed the deer and right away around five new friends came up to him and started harassing him. These Nara deer are not nice like the monkeys in Kyoto, these deer are aggressive and there is one in particular that is really attacking Chad. Soon enough, I feel a deer buck on my leg from behind me! Chad throws the crackers on the ground and starts to run away. We make an escape and cross the street into the other side of the park.
I knew Nara Park was known for it’s deer population, but my expectations were wildly wrong. I thought there would be a few deer, that the park would be small, we’d see a decent sized Buddha statue and it would be a few hours of exploring and then back to the train. That was not the case. This park is filled to the brim with deer. They are at the temples, on the sides of the roads, under trees, in the planters, crossing streets, peaking through shinto shrines. They are nothing like the deer in the US, who are skittish and fast, running away at the site of any movement. These deer are ruthless, they’ll come up close to you, look you up and down with doe eyes, and then move onward when you don’t produce a snack fast enough. They are not in it for the pets, they are there for the food.
Then there is the actual park, a beautiful Buddhist temple with shinto shrines throughout. We explored Tōdai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, and Kasuga Shrine. Toda-ji is the largest wooden building in the world. We make our way through crowds of deer to the temple, and we are offered a free English tour which is great because I really need context for these temples and shrines that we’re seeing. I felt skeptical though because earlier I was approached by a Jehovah’s Witness outside the temple and for some reason I thought there was some sort of catch to our free English tour. Nope, no catch, just Japanese people being the nicest as per usual. We entered the temple and wow, big buddha was beautiful. So far it’s been my favorite temple/shrine experience, and man have there been a lot. The areas to explore seem never ending, and Chad wants to see everything you can possibly see.
It was a full day experience, and by the end we really needed air conditioning. It reached 100 degrees and I became a devil from overheating. We got iced smoothies and sat in air conditioning before catching the train home.
The one question I have is - where are the squirrels? (Mo but actually, there have been no squirrel sightings yet in Japan and I usually like to compare squirrels when I go to new countries.. does Japan have squirrels 🐿 😂 ?)
“Chrys-tham-them-mum… Chrystham-them-mum.. Chrystham-themum!” We were on the first course of our 9 course Japanese dinner (what were we thinking, seriously??) and our server, a cute, little Japanese woman dressed beautifully in a kimono, was explaining an ingredient on the menu, chrysanthemum. We taught her how to say the English word, and she repeated it over and over. As she slide out of the room (literally slid, bowing coming in and out of the sliding doors to our room) we could hear her walking down the hallway to fetch the next course saying “Chrys-tham-them-mum… Chrystham-them-mum.. Chrystham-themum!”
I was completely filled to the brim after course 4, but we pushed onward. After two hours, we were both ready to stand up off the floors, stretch our legs, and go to bed. Chad and I are eating meat on this trip ‘traveltarians’ or ‘flexitarians’ (though we’re mostly sticking with fish) and this was a meat heavy meal so we were both feeling it. I think I’m getting enough meat for the rest of my life and I’m really missing vegetables. I’ll be happy to be going back to vegetarian once we’re back.
Gora, Hakone was so incredibly relaxing after Tokyo. It rained the entire time we were there, which was really nice because it kept the air cool and we went in the hot springs for most of the night and early morning. We also swam in the pool, which as filled with dragonflies. We read books and relaxed before we fell asleep on our futons.
“I like this one because it reminds me of the Hamburgerlar.” We’re inside a Picasso exhibit on the side of a mountain in Hakone, Japan and Chad is explaining to me why he likes a specific Picasso portrait. I start laughing, a bit too loudly, and we continue out into the Open Air Art Museum that sits next to our hotel on the side of a mountain.
We’re in Hakone, in the mountains close to Mount Fuji (which we could almost see from the train but weather is cloudy). We’ve made the mistake of spending far too much money on a ryoken that has a private onsen in the room but the deed has been done and we’re going to enjoy ourselves whether we like it or not. We’re here for the night, which will be nice because we need some relaxation after our Tokyo adventure. We are preparing to eat a nine course meal for dinner served in our room and then enjoy the hot springs. What can I say, we really splurged… (I’m looking for freelance work if anyone is hiring!! haha)
We ate a small lunch at a place called Woody’s, a tiny restaurant dedicated to Toy Story. The town we are in, Gora, is a really quiet town with just a few streets so after lunch, we stumbled upon a brewery and had to try a beer. It was delicious and a perfect way to spend our afternoon before our onsen experience. We’re in Hakone for one night of pure bliss and then onwards to Kyoto.