I am re-posting my diary from my September 2013 trip to Japan. This is the report from September 12 with my girlfriend (now fiance) Jordan which recounts our day trip to Nara and Osaka.
This morning we boarded the “Vista Train” at Kyoto station for the quick 35 minute hop to Nara, home of Todaiji Temple, and the Great Buddha statue housed in the world’s largest wooden building. It was quite a hike from the station, and again the weather was hot and humid.
We received a brief explanation from an English-speaking assistant at the entrance about the cultural significance of the temple. One of the more interesting facts that we learned is that the hall housing the great buddha statue is the third incarnation… previous builds were about 40% larger than what currently stands. The walk around was nice, and I can recall back to the last time I visited this hall in 2004.
On the way back and forth, we ran into a signature trademark of Nara: Deer on the road. Jordan and I bought deer snacks and the animals were happy to partake in the feast
Then it was on to Tempozan near the port of Osaka, home to one of the world’s tallest ferris wheels, one of the world’s largest aquariums, and a small mall to boot. It was here that we had the Osaka staple, Okonomiyaki, for lunch. Basically a cooked cabbage pancake filled with whatever ingredients one chooses… in this case the main ingredient was beef. It was Jordan’s first crack at the meal and both of us really enjoyed it. It was also the time that I reunited with green soda, melon flavored!
After the ferris wheel it was on to Kaiyukan (the aquarium), and we spent a good deal of the afternoon making our way around the tanks. She was happy to point out the large whale sharks that were on display, and other fish that were of particular interest. My favorite moment was the dolphin feeding, which I captured on video. We arrived just in time for it and the handlers were more than happy to feed them and have them do tricks for everyone!
The skies were dark as we left…. my feet were numb from standing in the commuter train as we got back to Kyoto. The day finished with dinner that Jordan was looking forward to partaking since we arrived, when she noticed a store selling large pork buns! Very delicious and professionally made, we might try this one more time before heading to Tokyo on Sunday.
Tomorrow’s plans…. not decided yet. We’ll rest and see what we decide to do.
I am pretty sure that on my last trip to Japan in 2008, an old friend of mine – Sachiko – introduced me to Okonomiyaki. It’s been a few years… and I never realized how delicious it can be! It was a bit of an interesting experience the first time, with our lackluster (at best) command of the language… though after this visit we’d go back for Okonomiyaki in Kansai and Tokyo a few times before our flight back to New York. Jordan and I have yet to figure out what New York restaurants offer good Okonomiyaki :)
I should also mention that the routes we used for a majority of this day’s trip were fully covered by the Kansai Rail Pass. This included the Kintetsu from Kyoto to Nara, and again from Nara to Tempozan/Kaiyukan in Osaka. Many of the urban and suburban transit systems in Japan will often run on to other train lines. Case in point – from Nara we took the Kintetsu to an intermediate station, Ikoma – in the suburbs – where we switched to the Kintetsu Keihanna Line. 10 km and 4 stations west of Ikoma, the same train that we were on continued on to the Chuo Line of the Osaka Subway. This took us directly to Osaka-ko, the station for Tempozan and Kaiyukan, and eliminated the need to change between lines in the middle of Osaka. If you do your research, you can find alternates like this that will make your travel a little easier.
It got pretty late for us this day, so we opted paying for the faster (and as it so happened, crowded) JR line to go back to Kyoto.