Thursday, January 15, 2015

Japan 2014: Day 2- Nara Deer Park, Todaiji Temple & Kiyomizudera Temple, Kyoto

Continuing with Day 2 of the Japan 2014 posts, if you haven't read, here's part 1:

Day 1: Osaka, Osaka Castle, Shinsaibashi, Dotonbori, Universal Studios, Shinsaibashi & Osaka Takoyaki Museum

Woke up bright and early for breakfast buffet at Hotel Keihan Universal Tower. It was a good spread, I had tamago (egg) whenever I spotted the dish at breakfast. It's quite funny how fried food in Japan isn't oily or greasy. So yums! Also we noticed every Japanese couple with a kid would be feeding the child natto (fermented soybeans) which is very nutritious at breakfast.

After that, we travelled East towards Nara to visit the Nara Deer Park and Todaiji Temple. The deer were really cute and tame, there were even a few curious ones who kept sniffing our bags for food. We decided against buying crackers (sold at the park) as we saw a few people getting ambushed whilst trying to feed them.

Todaiji Temple

Trivia: Todaiji's main hall, the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) is the world's largest wooden building, despite the fact that the present reconstruction of 1692 is only two thirds of the original temple hall's size. The massive building houses one of Japan's largest bronze statues of Buddha.

At the rest stop outside Nara Deer Park
We then adjourned to Kiyomizudera Temple (Pure Water Temple) which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also the temple of the Goddess of Mercy. There were so many people, tourists and locals alike at this attraction.

Trivia: The Kiyomizu Stage was built using a special method; huge 12-meter high keyaki (Japanese Zelkova) pillars were assembled without using a single nail and the floor was installed using more than 410 cypress boards. 

It never ceases to amaze me how such majestic structures and buildings were constructed those many years ago (all around the world!!), without using the technology we have access to today.

Picking our omamori (Japanese amulets)

The trees were still barren when we visited but it was still a very picturesque and beautiful place, I would imagine it to be even more so in spring when the steps would be littered with cherry blossoms. On our walk down, we saw a number of genuine maikos and tourists alike in kimonos. How we could tell them apart was by the language they spoke as well as how big the steps they took. For a fee you can actually dress up in a kimono for a few hours and walk around.

I particularly like the style of the buildings in Kyoto, they look "traditional" but somehow clean and modern at the same time. Maybe it's the minimalistic lines? I'm no architecture student so you'll have to bear with my descriptions :D

Lunch was sushi and udon, the sushi was fresh and delicious but not amazing. I did however have the best sushi on the last day of this trip at Tsukiji market (more on that later).

Local snack shop
Nishijin Textile Center was also on the agenda for the day but I didn't take any pictures there. Probably too busy shopping and touching the different types of kimonos.

Our hotel for the night was somewhere in Toyohashi (we were slowly making our trip up to the area surrounding Mt Fuji). That night I had my first taste of an authentic kaiseki. Everything was in bite sized pieces but I was absolutely stuffed by the end of it.

There is an order as to how a kaiseki is to be enjoyed (I only found out at the end of the meal). Read here if you're interested. There are 10 dishes on the tray and I actually ate almost all of it. It was so delicious and I really didn't want to waste a single grain.

Bought a super cute bottle of Orange and Pineapple flavoured tea (amongst many other snacks), love how cute everything is in Japan. Buy them all!!!

Coming up next would be our visit to Owakudani Valley, Hakone and Mt Fuji (5th station).

Japan 2014:
Day 1- Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan, Shinsaibashi & Osaka Takoyaki Museum
Day 2- Nara Deer Park, Todaiji Temple & Kiyomizudera Temple, Kyoto

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