• Bruce

Day 7: Nara

One part of Kansai that I missed the last time I was here was Nara. Nara is about as far from Osaka as Kyoto is, so it was a good distance for a day trip. Unlike Kyoto, Nara is quite small with most of the attractions within walking distance of the main train station. We started the morning in Osaka Station as usual, this time opting for Yoshinoya. Yoshinoya is a popular Japanese fast food chain in China, so I recognized it but hadn’t had it in years. I ordered their classic super thin beef rice bowl, which came with a salad and miso soup. It was delicious - a perfect pairing with rice. I am very impressed with Japanese fast food, which doesn’t compromise taste and quality for convenience and price.

After this late breakfast/brunch, we took the JR Line which directly reached Nara in just under an hour. There was a large pedestrian boulevard lined with shops and restaurants that connected Nara Station with Nara Park. Nara was the first capital of Japan, before Kyoto, so there is also some interesting history and temples here. This pagoda is the most iconic one.

Nowadays, Nara is famous for one thing and one thing only – deer. Nara Park was teeming with deers, along with the tourists feeding them. I had to join in on the action and got some deer biscuits from a local vendor. With so many tourists, a lot of deers were full and not interested in the food, at least the generic biscuits. Some families thought it was a good idea to have a Hanami with the deers, whom became very curious in their human food. Nara deers have a reputation of being aggressive, so visitors need to be cautious. I didn’t encounter such deers, and eventually found some that appreciated my biscuits. It was a lot of fun playing with the deers and a great experience.

As the afternoon heat kicked in, we cooled off with another matcha ice cream. While there were also a lot of temples around, we were mostly here for the deers and weren’t too keen on going through them. We walked back down the boulevard and saw one shop doing the mochi making ritual where they would beat it with a wooden hammer. This was pretty cool to see and the mochi itself was really good. It was a lot softer than the store bought ones.

Before heading back to Osaka, I picked up a Nara Starbucks mug from the train station. Last time I was in Japan, we got Starbucks mugs from each of our destinations (Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Yokohama). Since I was visiting Nara for the first time, I had to get one to complete the set. Once we were back in Osaka, I went to one of my favorite chains in Japan for dinner – Coco Curry. The best Japanese curry I’ve ever had was from my last trip to Japan at Coco Curry, so I was excited to find one in the mall next to our hotel. It was amazing, just as delicious as I remembered. The sauce has the perfect balance of spice and flavor. I kind of regret not buying some curry mix to bring back now. Great way to finish the day.