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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Japan - Arashiyama & Nara 11.06



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  • Hozwkyo 保津峽
  • Arashiyama 嵐山
    • Tenryu Ji天龍寺 
  • Nara Park 奈良公園
    • Todaiji Temple 東大寺
    • Kasuga Shrine 春日大社
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It was going to be a hectic day today.  We bought the one day JR-West Rail Pass and intended to take full advantage of it.  

Umeda (梅田) station was a major hub, connecting subways and many railway lines.  When we came here for the JR train, it was the morning rush hour.  Countless expressionless Japanese men with black suites all carried briefcases, and women with business dresses walking synchronized to the different entrances of the station. There was no rowdy chatters, only the sound of heels hitting the tiled floor and soft background music playing in the station.   It reminded us of the sardines in the aquarium we saw yesterday.  It also reminded me of Haruki Murakami's (春上村樹) novels:  The subway music felt hypnotizing and we had entered into this surreal world in one of his novel setting. 


Or first stop was Hozwakyo (保津峽), it was written in my Taiwanese guide book as a beautiful gorge to see fall foliage.  The JR train ran extremely efficient, incredibly reliable and punctual.  The transfer is always scheduled in a way that the other train is at the same platform and next train departed a few minutes after the first train arrived.  



The train dropped us off at the Hozwakyo station. The deserted station was bridged between two mountains.  We were a bit apprehensive at how remote the station was.  With the limited time that we had, it was a destination that we could have skipped.  

30 minutes later, we hopped on another train and moved on to our next destination: Arashiyama 嵐山.  Tenryu Ji (天龍寺) was the most important temple in Arashiyama.  The zen garden and the pond inside the temple was breath taking.  


 It was H's very first Japanese temple, and H absolutely loved it.  Unlike the ornate and intricate temples in Taiwan, Japanese temple architectures were simplistic and calming and the  gardens were exquisite. 


After Tenryuji temple, we tried the Arashiyama tofu & Soba noodle at a random street vendor for lunch.  They were delicious! So simple yet so tasty!


We walked around Arashyiyama a little more after lunch, browsing through some sovounier shops and stopped by Togetsukyo Bridge (Moon Crossing Bridge 渡月橋).  

Finally at 2pm, we arrived in Nara Park.  The train station was about a 20 minutes walk from the main sights in the park.  We checked with the information booth before getting out of the train station and hopped on the bus taking us straight to the Dondaji temple (東大寺).

The first thing you noticed once inside the park were all the deer roaming around.  Many tourists bought the megadeer crakers from the street vendors to feed these cute bambies, but quickly realized that they were surrounded by the relentless deer that were quite aggressive until the crackers were gone.  Watching the scene, I thought the idea of feeding deer was more fun than actually doing it. 


Dondaji temple was one of the most impressive temples I have ever seen.  It was grand and solemn.  Unfortunately it was also a very popular site and there were a lot of school tours the day when we visited.  


After Dondaji temple, we walked through the park for ten minutes and came to Kasuga Shrine (春日大社).   


Before we headed back to the train station, we passed Kofukuji Temple's Treasure House (興福寺), but it was under renovation.  Many people liked to spend more time in Nara Park.   However, since this was not the peak of fall foliage, we didn't lingered in the park for long. 


On our way back to the Nara train station, we walked passed Coco Curry House, a chain restaurant which serves curry dishes.  Our brother in law had worked in Japan for 2 years and recommended this restaurant to us.  We decided to get a bite before heading back to Osaka. 


Japanese curry is very different from the southeastern Asian curry dishes from India, Thailand, and Indonesia.  It did not have all the other spices the southeastern Asian curry dishes have.  It was creamy and milky and usually served with fried chicken or pork cutlets with a flaky crust.   Personally, I like Japanese curry better. 

We got back to Osaka around 7 and neither one of us was hungry.  H decided to take a nap in the hotel while I did some shopping at the near by mall.  Unfortunately, all the department stores and shops close by 8 pm in Osaka, so we really did not have much time to shop during this trip.   By the time I returned to the hotel room, we never made it out again. 

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