Saturday, May 18, 2019

Japan Travel: Nara

One of the most famous attractions in Nara (Japan) is Nara Park, where you can find many deer around. Other than visiting the deer, another highlight of our trip to Nara was to experience a traditional Japanese festival called Kasuga Wakamiya On-Matsuri 春日若宮おん祭, which takes place on 17 December every year.

From Namba in Osaka, we took Kintetsu Railway to Nara. A short walk along the shopping street outside Kintetsu-Nara Station, we saw the famous Japanese mochi shop Nakatanidou 中谷堂. It is well-known for the high speed mochi pounding process, in which one man hammers the mochi, while the other man uses his hand to turn the mochi, really amazing! Though we avoided the long queue as we were there early, there was no mochi pounding demonstration. The mochi was soft, with delicious red bean filling.

It was quite a distance to walk from Kintetsu-Nara Station to Todai-ji 東大寺 inside Nara Park. Along the way, we saw the locals preparing for the festival - some set up the food stalls, some dressed up and prepared the horses.

Finally we stepped into Nara Park, there were so many deer! When I visited this place N years ago, it was during Cherry Blossom. The place looked different during this visit as it was late autumn, the deer blended in nicely with the brownish red leaves on the ground!

There were stalls selling senbei (crackers) for the deer. It was an interesting sight that none of the deer took the senbei from the stalls!

We entered Todai-ji through Nandaimon Gate (Great South Gate).

Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) houses Japan's largest bronze statue of Buddha. The admission fee is 600 yen for adult and 400 yen for child.

It was almost 12 noon when the parade team started from Nara Japanese Prefecture Government Office outside Nara Park. As I was not sure the parade route, I asked a policeman with my half-past six Japanese, and figured out that we should follow the crowd and stay around Kofuku-ji 興福寺 along Sanjo-dori.

While we were waiting for the parade team to come, we bought some snacks and Okonomiyaki. It was really crowded! No wonder policemen had to be there to control the crowd. The parade team finally appeared at around 1250 p.m.! It was my 8th time visiting Japan, but it was my first time witnessing a Japanese traditional festival! It was really an eye-opening experience for us!

Actually it was not the end of the festival. There were a ceremony and horse racing at Ichi no Torri of Kasuga Taisha, which we decided to give it a miss as it was too crowded.

As we walked back towards Kintetsu-Nara Station, we spotted pink strawberries. But we didn't buy any as we heard that pink strawberries were not as sweet as the usual red ones.

Before we left Nara, I bought the popular pudding from Mahoroba Daibutsu Purin まほろば大仏プリン本舗 at Kintetsu-Nara Station. As we were heading to Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka, the pudding became my supper when we reached the hotel. It was smooth and not too sweet.

If you are visiting Kansai area, do consider planning a half-day or one-day trip to Nara!

Our Japan Travelogue (Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara) December 2018

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