Our first night in Japan, was spent in Hikone, Shiga prefecture. Boy, was it cold that night. Hikone is famous for Lake Biwa, Japan's biggest lake possible. It was a 1 and 1/2 drive from Kyoto to Hikone. Neko - was very cold when we reached hotel. Worse is, Mashi and Becks- were staying in chalets - they have to drag their bags in the cold to chalets which was away from the main hotel. Funny thing in Japan, there is no bell boy. You are the bell boy. So, imagine dragging large bags in the dark and freezing cold... .... I was pretty lucky, my room was in the main hotel. The room was so small, once i got my bag in the door with me- i was stuck. Can't move forward or back. Sigh. Had to drag my bag one by one through first. Clever neko.
I slept pretty well that night. Since the room was small, it was not that cold. Got to watch Harry Potter in Japanese. (Halee Pohta pronounced in japanese). Coming morning, i was starving. I was told brekkie today is traditional style. Wow, i was not wrong.
Brekkie was held in small room - all .. on the floor style eating. I like :). I plopped myself down and a lady dressed in traditional style kimono lighted the fire on my nabe pot. Japanese breakfasts are actually quite simple. Normally there is fish served, grilled or salted. I had salted salmon today. Then there is soup ( miso is drunk like in every meal) , a piece of nori, tsukemono,tofu in a nabe pot in plain soup and a cup of hot green tea. Now ..... i was craving for coffee - but coffee is not a breakfast drink in Japan. So it was a bit strange to the waitress to see my can of Suntory Black coffee - hehehe. After breakfast, with the usual hotel photographing, we set off to Nara.
Nara is the old capital of Japan, before Kyoto, and even before the set up of Edo (now known as Tokyo ). This highly historical place is also saw the start of the Heian Period as well as the Kamakura shogunate - where Minamoto clan were historically linked to. Honestly, Nara feels like a very old place. There is no really tall buildings and it really feels like a complete world away from Tokyo.
What is Nara famous for? Buddhism, deer and now this dorama - Shika no Otoko which is filmed completely in Nara. Deers are considered the messengers from God in Nara, however they are surprisingly not a native of Japan. They come from China. By the way, i watched the dorama after i came back and i kept yelling to everyone who would listen "i was here! and i was there". As usual only my russell paid attention to me.
There is deer, deer and deer everywhere in Nara. And they are so tame! They come up to you and nudge you look inquisitively at you. Or was it hungrily at you. You can pet them and give them an ear rub and also feed them Senbei ( rice crackers - which seems like roll roll biscuit to me ). When i first stepped place into Nara park -poooooooooooooooh... stinky deer poo. Worse is, the weather was so dreary and wet, the poo and rain smell was sometimes a bit too much for this cat. But heck, let me not spoil my trip.
The one big thing that is famous in Nara is Todaiji. My japanese friend says i pronounce this more like TOR-DAI-CHEE instead of TOH DAI JEE. Machigaichatta neh. Todaiji means eastern great temple. And it is Great. In fact - an extremely dekkai buddha statue is housed in the main temple. The silly rain spoiled a lot of shots as i could only take pictures under cover. Arrgh. Worse is all those umbrellas, almost took my eye out.
Trips normally mean something- the guide goes "blah,blah,blah" and then says "i give you 2 hours to walk around meet back here at what what time". I like the part where they say i give you 2 hours :) means i can roam around. I have this truly bad habit of wandering around on my own. Being on my own for so long, i like to walk around, take pictures, snoop around, take more pictures and buy stuff. Once the guide said "go'" - poof, i disappeared on my own to the temple.
Let me just say this temple was PACKED that day. We were unfortunate to be there on a Sunday. Sunday is a day in Japan where people spent time together with families and loved ones. Lord, it was people filled in Nara. To get into the main temple room- ... sigh... banyaknya orang. I only could take pictures far away. Want to pray in front of the buddha? U wish. Stand further back lah.
Big NIO statue guarding TODAIJI
There are some massive statues of NIO in the temple as well as this strange er column in which there was a hole in the middle of the column. We had a whole row of people queuing up to push their little kids through. Suddenly it hit me. Aiyer, so now i know where people get their inspiration for the movie the ring. Remember Sadako/Samara that crawls out of the TV.... Creepy. So early start your kids on horror movies- freak me out.. .
Lunch that day was super awesome. I got to eat real tasty soba. In fact 2 box full of soba. Plus a plate of rice with soy marinated maguro. Since i only eat raw salmon... Becks get most of my raw stuff. I hope he doesn't whack me for making him chubby! Then - we had tempura. Sigh. Day 3 of tempura. But it wasn't that bad. Besides the ebi tempura i loved that leaf tempura given. You don't find it in KL but it was just tasty. Who would have thought eating leaves is tasty? Googling it up - i found it is call Shisho leaves
Funny thing is, tempura does not necessarily come with dipping sauce all the time or with fresh scrapped daikon. Guess it depends on which place you go to.
Dipping my soba in the sauce, and then slurping it up- was heaven. Definitely food in Japan is much better. Rice is a bit more sticky here so i did not finish it. Adds carbs when i don't want too much carbs already. Is this a carb heavy lunch? i think so leh.
After lunch, the usual strolling around was done. There were a lot of shops selling - stuff that you can go in and check out. Usually this time of the year, food stuff is pretty popular like every where else in Japan. I found a shop selling historical replicas of Kabuto (traditional helmets ) I wanted one of these in my last trips but did not get it. So this time around i got an Oda Nobunaga kabuto for my brother here. Sigh, there were so many nice things to buy but i don't want to spend sooo much....
Now, the sakura was out here already in Nara, and made some places look so pretty with the white blossoms dangling down. What is also blossoming was Ume or plum blossoms. So the white and pink adorning temples was a simply marvellous. It is a pity it was raining otherwise the shot would have been fantastic.
We had only one day in Nara and later we took a 3 hour drive to Ise Prefecture. Next, where Mikimoto comes from.
For those who want to see more photos of japan - click here for neko flickr set.
Those who are making a trip to Nara, the restaurant for lunch is called: