The Magical Day in Nara

On today morning we’re moving to Osaka. It consumes a lot of energy and as we’re dragging our heavy luggage to subway station. Since our apartment is nearer to Keihan Line station, we opt to take the train from Shichijo Station to Yodoyabashi Station (¥410/ RM16.40) and transfer to Osaka Subway Midosuji line to Namba Station (¥180/ RM7.20). Not an easy task because in subway stations, some underground level does not has elevator. Dragging my 15kgs luggage up and down the stairs almost make my hand felt like breaking.

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Baggage rental at OCAt, Level 2

We reached Namba pass 9.00 am. Since our Osaka Airbnb is only allowed to check in after 3.00 pm, we have plan to do a day trip to Nara. But before that we have to store our luggage. We go for baggage rental at Osaka City Air Terminal ( OCAT) which only charged ¥500/ RM20 per day. There are lockers at the train station but usually the bigger lockers that can fit suitcase are often occupied.

Namba has many trains stations that can be confusing at first. Basically there are 6 stations in Namba area operated by different companies. Their names can be confusing too because some seem similar. All the six stations are connected to each other at the underground level.

In general the trains station in Namba as follow:

  1. Nankai Railway – For Kansai Airport
  2. Osaka Subway Midosuji Line – For Shin-Osaka, Umeda, Shinsaibashi, Tennoji
  3. Kintetsu Railway / Hanshin Railway (Osaka-Namba) – For Nara, Ise, Nagoya / For Kobe, Himeji
  4. Osaka Subway Sennichimae Line
  5. Osaka Subway Yotsubashi Line
  6. JR- Namba

For better understanding, please refer this link for details:

http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/station-information/namba-stations-guide-how-to-change-the-trains-among-nankai-kintetsu-hanshin-subway-and-jr.html

TIPS: Search the train line via Hyperdia website. Look up for the signage at the train station which will lead you to your intended station. Trust me, you won’t get lost.

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To get to Nara, we take the Kintetsu Nara Line from Osaka-Namba Station to Kintetsu Nara Station (¥560/ RM22.40). It happened that we ride on the Express train to Nara which the whole journey took about 45 minutes only. However, when we return from Nara, we ride on the local train which consumes about 1.5 hours to reach Namba. It’s a huge difference between the two trains. At first we are worry that we have ride on the express train that will have extra surcharge compared to the other types of trains. Luckily, our ‘express’ train is not the same with limited express train which required extra surcharge.

We dropped by the Tourist Information Center to get some maps and station stamps.

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Kintetsu Nara Station
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First deer spotted by the roadside
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More deer found at the inner side

Our first stop is Kofukuji Temple (興福寺)……

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Kofukuji Temple and 5-storey Pagoda

IMG_2961Walking further up in front will be the Sarusawa-ike pond (奈良猿沢池).

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Peaceful looking lake
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A Japanese style store by the lake

We turned back to Kofukuji Temple. We walked through the narrow path between the temple and the pagoda. At the end of the road, we saw more deer resting in the park. Many people take chances to take pictures with the deer but be careful not to step on their feaces.

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Stricken little girl after being approach by a hungry deer

The deer in Nara are freely roaming around the park and sometime along the road. They look tame at first glance but some hungry deer may be desperate in following visitors asking to be fed.

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The deer’s antler had been cut due to safety reason

After our encountered with the deer, instead of crossing the road to Nara National Museum which connects to Nara Park, we took the other way which leads back to the main road. Although it may be longer way to reach Nara Park but there is a shrine that caught us by surprised…..Himuro Shrine……

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Is that full bloom of cherry trees?
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This is the scenery I have been waiting for….FULL BLOOM  SAKURA!!!

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Awesome cherry blossom tree

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After leaving Himuro Shrine, we continued walking to the north. Just before reaching Nara Park or the entrance to Todaiji Temple, we took a break at this resting place for the public. It’s actually a museum built by the Okumura Corporation, where it’s founder was born in Nara.

Okumura Commemorative Museum

Admission: Free

Opening hours: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (Closed on 3rd Tue, Dec 29-Jan 3)

Website: http://www.okumuragumi.co.jp/en/commemorative/index.html

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Sento-kun…..Nara mascot

When we reached the intersection road to Todaiji Temple and Kasuga Shrine, we decided to have lunch before visiting the ‘Great Buddha Temple’. Just across the road, we had a simple lunch at this restaurant.

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Kakinoha Sushi Set (with Udon) – ¥880/ RM35.20

Kakinoha sushi is a rectangular shape Nara style sushi. The sushi is made of rice and fish and wrapped with persimmon leaf. The taste of the sushi is just like any normal sushi….

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On the way to Todaiji Temple, there are arrays of shops and snack stalls cluster near the intersection road. We bought some snack as dessert here.

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Chocolate Ichigo Daifuku (¥300/ RM12)
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Sakura flavor ice-cream
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Look at the crowd!!!
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Nandai-mon (Great South Gate)

The Nandai-mon gate is actually form part of the Todaiji Temple building structure. The gate is the main entrance to Todaiji Temple. The gate is very huge and tall.

Todaiji Temple (東大寺)

Entrance fee: ¥500/ RM20

Opening hours: 8:00 to 16:30 (November to February)
8:00 to 17:00 (March)
7:30 to 17:30 (April to September)
7:30 to 17:00 (October)

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The Great Buddha Hall

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Purifying water before entering the temple

Since young, I was told that taking pictures of the god statue is a taboo. I guess the belief is actually meant to be respectful. Although it is allowed to take pictures in the hall, I chosen not. We just slowly walked around and closely watched the huge size of Buddha statue and other statues too. Interestingly, in the hall, there was a big pillar with a hole at the bottom. It is believe that anyone that can went through the hole will be granted enlightenment in next life. The size of the hole was actually fit for kids to go through. Amazingly, some adults also tried their luck so it was very fun to watch them.

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Help! Please pull me out….

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Upon exiting the temple, we returned to the road where we came in. The Nara Park is situated just right beside the Todaiji Temple. Many deer can be seen roaming around the temple ground, resting under the tree, walking along the riverbank and waiting visitors to feed them. We noticed that those deer which were actively following visitors were hungry deer. This cute creature will nod it’s head as like begging for food or showing gratitude.

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Stall selling Shika Senbei
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Nara deer favorite rice crackers (¥150/ RM6)
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I join in the fun to feed the deer
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Another deer appeared and pulled my coat
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Here you go……seem yummy

IMG_3139.JPGI finished the stack of crackers on my hands by feeding the two deer. Some deer may be desperate in looking for food. Along the way to Todaiji Temple, we saw a deer eating the paper bag carried on a lady’s arm. In another incident near Kasuga Shrine, a deer seen eating the map strewn on the road. We also saw few unethical tourist feeding them with the food bought from the street vendor.

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A deer by the riverbank
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Warning! I might be furious sometimes…..
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Welcome to Nara!

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We’re back to the intersection road between Todaiji Temple and Kasuga-taisha. Next destination is Kasuga-taisha (Kasuga Grand Shrine).

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The intersection road and the place we had lunch that noon
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The entrance leading to Kasuga-taisha

Kasuga-taisha is located deeper in the wood. Along the path leading to the shrine, smaller or younger deer are seen and some are hiding behind the stone lanterns.

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Younger deer with antler still attached….
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Stone lanterns along the way…..

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Kasuga-taisha is located behind this tori gate

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Kasuga-taisha Shrine

Kasuga-taisha (春日大社)

Admission fee: Free (Outer area), ¥500/RM20 (Inner area)

Opening hours: 6:00 to 18:00 (April to September)
6:30 to 17:00 (October to March)
Inner area: 8:30 to 16:00

Kasuga Taisha offering hall can be visited free of charge. If you’re interested with the inner building, a fee is applicable. For us, we just admire the outer part of the shrine without entering the inner building. The shrine is famous for its lanterns which will only be lit twice a year (early February and mid August).

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Gold and bronze lanterns hanging side by side

 

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It’s already evening when we finished touring the shrine. We decided to retreat back to Osaka for check in. In Nara, besides walking, you can opt to take the Nara Kotsu bus. But we decided to just walked all the way back from Kasuga-taisha to Kintetsu Nara Station which is about 2km away.

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It’s already pass 4pm…. time to go back to our Osaka home

Today is really our lucky day. When we were left clueless on how to get to our rented apartment, a lady in her 40s magically appeared to help us. She even personally guide us all the way to our apartment and gave us TWO boxes of Takoyaki. We were very grateful to her and were very happy to meet such kind Japanese. Arigatao gozaimashita!

 

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Wondering which shop this takoyaki was bought from???……. So yummy!

We had a late dinner at Tsuruhashi Fugetsu, Dontobori which specialty is Okonomi-yaki.

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Located on the third floor just beside the big TV screen

We just love the Okonomi-yaki served here as it has special sauce as topping.  Besides serving Okonomi-yaki, it also has Modan-yaki (with noodle). Just like other restaurant, each person have to order at least 1 order per person. Total bill – ¥3,142/ RM126 for 3 person.

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Okonomiyaki (left) and Modan-yaki (right)

 

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Omelet

We started our ‘massive’ shopping that night. We went to the Don Quijote which was widely publicized as One-stop shopping in Osaka. This is a tax-free shop so do expect some crowd from the tourist. We’re disappointed with the impolite service shown by the cashier who can speak our ‘mother’s tongue language’.  Nonetheless, it is a shop specially caters for foreign tourist so we did not expect much. In order to be entitled for the free-tax, a purchase of ¥5,400 (including tax, 8%) and above is needed. The purchase will be seal and it only can be opened after leaving Japan.

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Alright, that’s all for our first day in Osaka. More to come tomorrow!

NEXT POST: Universal Studio Japan (USJ)

 

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