Day 10: October 31th 2008 Friday
Originally I wasn't planning to visit Nara at all, but so many people seemed to recommend it, so I decided to go there. Luckily, from the Rokujizou station, which was only 15 minute walk from Ishida, there was Nara-express train, that took only 30 minutes to Nara. From Nara train station, I took bus to get closer to the temple gardens. As I got out from the bus, I noticed there were really lot of people. I mean a lot. So it seemed to be quite popular place to visit. As I learned, Nara was chosen to be the first permanent capital location in Japan. The capital status was however quite short lived, and soon Kyoto was named capital.
One of the striking things in the gardens was, that there was hundreds of tame deer. And obviously they were accustomed to get treats from tourists. All the time they were trying to snatch something from someone. Also everywhere, there were people selling deer-cookies, so tourists could feed the deer. Quite soon, a group of school kids came to me, and asked me in English, if they could speak with me for a moment. Recalling the earlier similar occasion in Kyoto, I responded yes in Japanese. They seemed excited, and each one was holding a paper, and each student asked me one question in English from his or her paper. I responded in Japanese, and clearly they were just reading aloud something they had practiced, without much further though. One of the questions was if I was able to speak Japanese. I though I could skip that one, but they were waiting for reply, so again, I replied in Japanese. After questioning, they handed me leaflets from their hometown, and I proceeded further to the gardens.
After I passed huge wooden gate, on one corner of the garden, there was the Todai-ji, the biggest wooden building in the world. This one was re-built at some point, the original was actually even bigger. After Todai-ji, I walked around the garden was some two hours.
Tame deer at Nara
As everyone knows, Japan is filled with vending machines. Quite often I stopped at one to get myself coffee. You insert 120 yen, push the button next to a picture of a coffee can, and the machine pops out can of chilled coffee. Easy, right. Not this time. At the garden, I was feeling thirsty and I noticed row of vending machines. I went to one, inserted money, and pressed the button. Out came can of coffee. As I reached for it, I almost burnt my hand. The can was burning hot.
I studied the vending machine, and somehow so far I had missed out the red or blue framing around the coffee, to mark if it's hot or cold, and also the text atsui (hot) and tsumetai (cold). I carefully took the can out, and held it for several minutes until it cooled enough, so I could hold it normally, open the can and actually drink the coffee. I think the Japanese people need 101 on heat conduction. If you have hot beverage, you want to have insulated container, so you don't burn your hand. Metal can doesn't insulate too good.
And again I was approached by a group of school kids, asking me questions. Although this was somewhat funny, it was losing it's glamor, and starting to be more like waste of time. While walking one small pathway in the gardens, I overheard people talking on adjacent bigger path. I was too far away to make out what they were speaking, or even catch any words, but I noticed that the pronunciation was very Finnish-like. As I became curious, I proceeded on the pathway which merged on the bigger path, and there I noticed it was the same group I had seen the previous day at Kinkaku-ji. What a small world.
From the gardens, I walked back to the station through Nara. From the station, I took the same Nara-Kyoto express train, and soon I was close to Kyoto. One more temple to see, I stopped at Inari. They have quite interesting sight, there's hundreds of the little gates, torii, lined up as alleys. I walked up the hillside for a while, took another turn, and came out another way. I guess I was starting to have my share of temple-sightseeings for a while, so I went back to train station, and took train to Kyoto downtown.
Kyoto by night
At the train station, I asked if there was another kaitenzushi, than the one inside the main terminal. The station employee gave me instruction to another place in Souji. I went there, and found out it was 100 yen each plate, any plate. That's about 1 dollar, so if you are really hungry, you might end up spending like 10 dollars.
Although the cheap price, it was really nice place. At the table, there was touchscreen display. As I slowly started to read the screen, woman sitting next to me noticed I might be in need for some guidance. She showed me how to use the screen. There were few categories, and after category you browse what you'd like to eat, and press send. In few minutes, a train comes to bring your order. Nice, huh. There were model train tracks running from kitchen to around the tables to deliver the orders. They also had the normal conveyor belt, but woman told me it's better to order, as you get the fish more fresh.
So I pressed for one beer, and couple of sushi, and soon I was enjoying myself over beer and sushi. Genius. I kept ordering different sushis, and in the end with the beer, I had to pay some $15 for the whole dinner.
From the sushi restaurant, I started walking around the neighborhood. There were several covered streets with shops lining both sides. I walked around for a while, and after it started to be quite late, I headed back towards the station. I thought to buy can or two of the Japanese plum wine at some store.
At one door, I noticed text for alcohol, so I stepped in. For a moment, I had to gather my thoughts. For one, the shop was tiny, maybe 3 by 3 meters. On the walls, there were normal cooler shells for drinks, like any store with cool storage. In the middle, there was tiny table and few people gathered around the table. I approached the people, and asked if I came to right place, as I wanted to buy drink or two. They explained me, that it was place called "standing bar". Basically it was alcohol store and bar combined. You went to get the drinks you wanted, paid for them at the cashier, go drink at the table with your buddies. Repeat until. Genius.
The men were really friendly, and as it was getting late on Friday evening, they had had already couple of drinks themselves. I stayed there for maybe hour or so, drinking two bottles of plum wine. But I have to say, it was really pleasant hour. When I was drinking out with those friendly guys, the limitations of my language didn't really come up. We chatted about many issues, laughed over. If I couldn't come up with the word I wanted, we raised glasses and proceeded to the next issue.
Finally it was getting too late, and I didn't want to get too drunk, I bid farewell and headed back to the station, and to sleep.