First things first: Go check out the new map tab as illustrated by my sister, Marisa! One can never have too many maps.
Did you do it? Seriously, go do it... I'll wait.
Part II of the Silver Week Saga.
We took the train from Osaka to Nara for a day trip en route to Kyoto. This video of bowing deer in Japan has been making its way around Facebook prompting comments of 'Even the deer are polite!' Well I can say that Hollywood is not all it appears to be and the deer are NOT as polite-- and I can't blame them. I'm pretty against feeding/touching wildlife in general so I did not partake in buying crackers to give to Bambi; but, I did witness some grumpy deer after their cookie who did not politely bow but rather aggressively nipped and bit. While I was not into the deer, Nara did not disappoint as we rented some bikes and paid a peaceful visit to Isui-en-- a tranquil traditional Japanese garden. A volunteer tour guide told us the history of the garden and the symbolism behind various features. It was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Osaka.
Nara is also home to the world's largest bronze statue of Buddha at Todai-ji which was surprising and breathtaking at the same time. One thing that became abundantly clear to me at this temple: Japan is old. I lurked behind an English tour group for a bit to get some history and overheard casually 'yes this lantern is from the Eighth century' like nbd. The eighth century! I told someone Canada was celebrating its 150th anniversary next year and they just laughed. The actual temple itself used to be much larger than its current form (which is very large) but due to multiple fires it has been rebuilt and the present iteration was completed in 1709-- modern piece of shit.
Then it was on to Kyoto! We had a day of super-touristing and visited Kiyomizu-dera, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Arashiyama, and Nishiki Market. The weather in Kyoto was much nicer than in Osaka and we took advantage by doing A LOT of walking, which seems to be an excellent way to see the city. I have also heard that biking is a great method to get between all the sites of Kyoto and I will do this when I return-- because I will return. Kyoto also has potentially the most tourists I have ever seen in one place. Main streets and temples looked like a multi-cultural Where's Waldo where you could hear 8 different languages being spoken at once-- it almost made you forget you were in Japan. This is very different than my reality of Japan at home on Goto. On Goto you can count all foreigners on the island on both hands (and maybe a couple of toes).
The Fushimi Inari Shrine and torii gates were amazing and definitely the highlight of Kyoto for me. Wandering up the side of the mountain through thousands of ornately carved gates that seem to stretch on forever was an experience I won't soon forget. As soon as you leave the initial pathway, the number of tourists significantly decreases and there were many times we were on the path almost entirely by ourselves. I mentioned before just how old Japan is but wandering through these gates its easy to get lost in some narrative of centuries past and really feel like you are living a part of this rich history.
Part way up Arashiyama is the Iwatayama Monkey Park. This is the home to a troupe of about 150 wild Japanese Macaque monkeys, also known as Snow Monkeys. Fun facts about Japanese Macaques:
- They can live to be over 30 years old
- They have a very distinct class system in their hierarchy. Snow Monkeys are born into their class, and this dictates access to food (although probably not in this park as you can purchase food to give to the monkeys).
- Snow Monkeys have a unique culture system that can be remembered and passed from generation to generation. As well, it has been found that, like humans, they can develop accents of speech in different regions.
Kyoto Food highlights:
- Ridiculous parfaits (as pictured below)
- Mochi and tofu on a stick -- all food is better on a stick. And consumed in the street. Street food on sticks.
- More ￥100 kaiten sushi
- Soy milk donuts from the Nishiki Market
- ALL the soft cream (ソフトクリーム - soft serve ice cream). Matcha, is my preference.
In my next post I will rant and rave a bit about urban planning in Fukuoka.