Get that deer away from me!

Trip Start Aug 25, 2006
Trip End Sep 10, 2006

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Saturday, September 9, 2006

Our last full day in seems like we have been here forever, but I think it is time to go home. Mayumi very graciously offered to meet us in Kyoto and travel with us to Nara for the day. Nara was Japan's first permanent capital, and is home to some of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan. We met Mayumi as planned at Kyoto Station, and hopped on the 1 hour slow train to Nara. Even though it was early, it was very clear that it was going to be another broiling hot day.

On arrival in Nara, we started walking through town toward the temples, but had to make a quick stop in a store selling Japanese pickles for Kirsten. The first temple we visited was Kofukuji. While we didn't go inside, we admired the five-story pagoda. We also had to take a break for a vending-machine Coke, since the heat was getting to us. When we left Kofukuji, it became clear that, like Miyajima, Nara is home to hundreds of tame deer. We made our way to our next stop, Todaiji Temple. Todaiji is a huge wooden building (the world's largest!), housing Japan's largest Buddha statue.

After visiting Todaiji, we decided to visit the Kasuga Taisha Shrine - an uphill hike. Despite the heat, I was glad we had, and it turned out to be my favorite place in Nara. The uphill path to the shrine is lined with large, stone lanterns, donated by worshippers. The shrine itself is painted bright red, and hung with hundreds of bronze lanterns. Very photogenic and beautiful.

By this point, we were pretty hungry, so we headed back down to town and found a spot for a late lunch of cold udon and soba noodles. After lunch, we contemplated visiting another temple or two, but the heat made us decide to head back to Kyoto. We stopped in a few shops in Nara before leaving, and then spent a little time shopping at Kyoto Station. Then, it was finally time to say goodbye to Mayumi! Very sad, but we so appreciate everything she and her family have done for us during this trip.

Kirsten and I returned to the hotel, and had the concierge make a dinner reservation for us at a sushi restaurant. The concierge recommended a restaurant, but told us it would take "20 minutes by taxi" to get there. We debated, but decided to go for it since that was the one he was recommending. So, we caught a taxi a few minutes after 7 for our 7:30 reservation. Imagine our surprise when the taxi pulled up in front of the restaurant...3 minutes later. Luckily, the restaurant could accommodate us, but we weren't able to sit at the sushi bar as we had planned. The sushi was good, but not the best we'd had in Japan, especially for the price. After dinner, we decided to just walk back to the hotel - it only took 15 minutes! I'm not sure if the concierge was just unfamiliar with the restaurant he was recommending, or there was a language miscommunication. Back at the hotel, we went down to the hotel bar one last time, and I had my last "sho-chu mohito," which could be my favorite drink ever.
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