Nara and Kyoto

Today my friend took the first train back to Tokyo so he could arrive in time for class. I accompanied him to the station and then made my way to Nara. It was weird navigating the train system on my own. I do it all the time in Ikebukuro, but I’m familiar with those trains. Here I’m a little out of my element, but thankfully my friend helped me plan out ahead of time which trains I needed to take. I would be heading to Nara park to see Todaiji, Kasuga-Taisha, and Isuien Park. After that I made my way back towards Kyoto to see Byodo-in. I had also intended to see Daigoji, but unfortunately I ran out of time and wasn’t able to go.

Getting up at 4am was hard to do this morning. My friend said I could have stayed at his family’s house even after he left, but I felt weird doing that, so I just decided to leave at the same time he did. I caught the 5:00am train and was soon on my way to Nara.

I arrived in Nara around 7:00am, so unfortunately nothing was open yet. After getting out of the station, I walked down the street in search of a convenience store so I could get breakfast. However, I was walking by a park and found a group of deer lying together on the ground. Other people were there taking pictures and were able to get pretty close to the deer so I decided to wander over and take some of my own pictures. I later found out that Nara Park is famous for their deer and there are many stalls where you can buy food to feed them.

While I wandered around, I stopped at Kofukuji Temple. Unfortunately a lot of this temple was under construction when I went, but I was still able to see the five story pagoda, which is the second largest pagoda in Japan (the first being in Kyoto).

Once things began to open, I made my way to Todaiji. Todaiji is a very famous temple in Nara, and chances are if you google Nara, you will probably see a picture of this temple. There is a long pathway surrounded by stone lanterns that leads up to the gate of the temple. Once I paid the small entrance fee and stepped inside, I was absolutely stunned by just how big the temple was. People looked like ants standing next to this building. Inside the temple in the middle was an enormous Buddha statue. As you walked around the temple, you could also see several other decent sized statues made out of gold.

After I finished at Todaiji, I decided to simply wander around the park, stopping by several of the other smaller shrines and buildings before eventually making my way to Kasuga-Taisha. Unfortunately I don’t remember the names of all the smaller ones I went to because a lot of them I simply stopped at because I had been passing by and the temples didn’t always have the names in Romaji (because I don’t stand a chance at reading the names in Kanji).

Kasuga Taisha was hard to miss with its bright orange pillars. I think the coolest part about this shrine was the corridor filled with nothing but lanterns. It definitely made for a cool sight.

Lastly I went to Iusien, which was a really pretty park. As with many other Japanese gardens, it blended the use of trees and shrubbery with stones and water. I think part of what made this park was so cool were the use of stone bridges. I literally had to step on several large stones if I wanted to make my way across to the other side of the garden. I like this approach much better because I feel like the stones add to the aesthetics of the gardens whereas bridges tend to take away from the garden (especially if they’re old and rotten).

From there I left Nara and made my way back towards Kyoto to see Byodoin. It was a little crowded, which isn’t surprising. However, what did surprise me was that I didn’t see any other foreigners. All the people looked like they were native Japanese. The temple is a bit far from the main part of Kyoto, but it was still a really nice place. I’m surprised it wasn’t a bigger tourist spot for foreign visitors.

Unfortunately I didn’t go inside the main building because that cost extra and you had to go in groups, meaning that there were set times that people could go in. However, just seeing the outside was absolutely awesome. It’s set in the middle of a pond so if you have good weather you can get a cool picture with the temple reflecting off the water, but I unfortunately wasn’t able to do that. Actually, I had trouble getting the entire temple in the picture. It’s so wide! But the walkways on either side of the building plus the red pillars make for a really cool look.

I had also wanted to visit Daigoji, but unfortunately it closed at 5 and I wasn’t able to make it in time, so instead after Byodoin, I made my way to Okayama. That’s where the fun really began.

Before I left this weekend, I got these slips of paper that allowed me to get discount Shinkansen tickets. Well, when my friend returned to Tokyo today, he was kind enough to also take my suitcase that way I would only have to worry about my carrying my bookbag with me the next couple days. Well, I think my slips of paper were in there, so I wasn’t able to get the discount for the Shinkansen ticket when I went to Okayama. Then after I got off the train, I made my way to the capsule hotel where I had made my reservation only to find out that it was a men’s only hotel and I wasn’t allowed to stay there. So, I had to hurry and scramble to find somewhere else to stay for the night. Out of all the hotels in Okayama, almost all of them were full. Only two had rooms left. They were a little expensive, but at that point, what other choice did I have?

So, I’m super tired because I woke up at 4am, my legs hurt because I walked almost non-stop from 7am – 5pm, I paid more for my Shinkansen ticket than I should have, and I had to find a new hotel. At this point, I’m just ready to go home.

Don’t get me wrong, today was fun. I really enjoyed all the places I went to. However, after traveling with friends the last couple days, being by myself today made me feel really lonely. I enjoy traveling, but I think it would have been so much more fun if there had been somebody there to enjoy it with.

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