Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nara and our final onsen

We took the JR from Kyoto to get to Nara. There were tame deer to meet us in Nara just as on Miyajima, but here, the deer were out in large numbers. One of the first things we saw were dozens of deer galloping in a large circle in an open field. We spent some time at the Kasuga Shrine, where we were accompanied by thousands of school children.

Shrine Entrance

Many of the girls there very cutely said "hi!" to us as they passed, and were very happy when we responded, giggling and smiling. A few of them showed off their English skills by asking us "how are you?", or even "where are you from?" The kids seemed so happy to be outside, and were full of energy.

The Shrine itself was beautiful, but I found the surrounding area even more impressive.

Autumn House

All of this beautiful foliage in Japan! Even having gone to high school in Vermont, I was very impressed. Despite the number of people around, there was a distinct serenity to the place.

Deer grazing as the afternoon ends

Finally, we headed to our final onsen, which was on a hill. I use onsen here because the hotel itself advertised it, but in fact, once again, there was no natural hot springs to warm the outside bath. This made a huge difference in the bath experience, buuuut, we still had a wonderful traditional Japanese meal, full of delicious courses!

Initial place setting

Our meal consisted of mountain peach wine to start, followed by a crab/tofu appitizer, a small whole fish with bean dumpling and daikon, sashimi, shabu shabu with a miso paste sauce, nabe with chicken, tofu, and vegetables, crab leg tempura, rice with root vegetable, fruit, and Kuzumochi with soy sugar paste for dessert. Many things were very good, but the standouts were clearly the shabu shabu, the rice, which was subtly aromatic, and the sashimi, which was served in a bowl of ice! Fancy, fancy.


With plenty of beer to go along with the meal, we were a happy and stuffed bunch once again when we were done. But rather than sleep, which would have been quite easy to do, given it was our last night together, we decided to check out Nara before calling it a night.

Taking a cab into town, we found it almost empty, even at 11pm. We finally settled on a drink at a bar calling itself "scuba", which had a few ukuleles on display, but alas, they were out of tune and half broken, so Hiro and I couldn't play. Hiro had found a uke store previously on the trip; apparently the uke's warm, happy sounds is appreciated here too! We then headed to another place, a Western-themed bar, where I had a Leffe - my first non-Japanese beer of the trip. Without a doubt, I've had more Kirin and Asahi in a few weeks here than I've had in the rest of my life. Finally, we headed back to the hotel and got another night of well-earned sleep.

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