Growing up in a Filipino household meant that rice is king. It’s not unheard of for us to consume it three times a week. It’s still very hard for me to stay away from it, especially during family… More
With my trip to Japan coming to a close, I chose to take a day trip out of Kyoto and explore its neighboring city of Nara. I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to visit Nara’s temples and most importantly, the deers!
For a few brief decades from 710 to 784, the capital of Japan was located in present day Nara City. The influence of the successive emperors of the era can still be witnessed today through the countless of surviving historical Buddhist images and buildings scattered all over the city.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Getting around Nara is fairly simple as the city isn’t very large. It’s a 1 hour train ride from Kyoto and I arrived early in the morning at the JR Nara Station. From there, I walked to every site, although buses are readily available.
WHAT TO SEE
Before touring the city, I suggest stopping by the Nara Visitor Center, located one block east of JR Nara Station, and picking up a copy of a Nara City Sightseeing Guide map or you can download the PDF version here!
- Tofukuji Temple and Five-Story Pagoda – Originally founded in the 7th century, the Five-Story Pagoda is a symbol of Nara City. The present structure was rebuilt 600 years ago after it was burned down five times.
- Nara National Museum – This is the second national museum in Japan in 1895 in Nara Park. Today, the building is open to the public as Nara Buddhist Structure Hall.
- Todaiji Temple – Considered the largest wooden structure in the world, the temple is most famous for housing the Great Buddha (Daibutsu).
- Nara Park – The vast green area, known as Nara Park, is located in the central part of Nara City, with origins dating back to the 8th century. Approximately 1200 wild deer roam around freely around the park, and their antlers are removed for safety reasons. Most are harmless and friendly, while a few are more aggressive (one actually tore off a piece of paper bag and ate it!) Their behavior remind me of the men in my life. Nevertheless, I enjoyed feeding them Shika Senbei (deer crackers). They are so polite that they even bow when they ask for Shika Senbei!
Why are there so many deer in the park?
“According to legend, when Kasuga Taisha Shrine was founded as a family shrine for the Fujiwaras, a dominant aristrocrat clan in the 8th century, they invited a mighty god from Kashima Shrine. The god is said to have come to Nara riding on a white deer Since then, deer have been respected and protected as divine messengers by local people.”
Tired from a long day at work, I began rummaging my fridge earlier this evening, searching for ingredients for a simple, quick, yet healthy non-microwavable dinner. Coachella is only a few weeks away, and I am trying to slim down for the big event. Ever since I started living on my own and buying my own groceries, I have consciously made an effort to stock my fridge with lots of veggies, tofu, all sorts of fish, white meat… which have been predominantly successful with the exception of me always having at least two pints of ice creams if I’m going to be totally honest. Lately, I can’t get enough of Trader Joe’s Coffee Blast and Maeda-en’s Green Tea, but I disgress.
Wide-eyed with enchantment, I stroll leisurely through the narrow lanes of Higashiyama District, overflowing with complete disbelief that I was not a) time traveling and/or b) lucid dreaming. The streets of Higashiyama are paved with cobble stones and are lined with wooden Japanese buildings. Cafes, restaurants, and traditional merchant shops are situated side by side along the historic area, selling local specialties including but not limited to the best mochi desserts you will ever taste and the best matcha ice creams you will ever taste.
Unlike its metropolitan counterparts, Kyoto is devoid of the hustle and bustle of city life, but rather possessing the quintessential Japanese charm. Age old temples and shrines can literally be found in every corner and the unique architecture invoke a feeling of old Japan. If Lost in Translation is to Tokyo, then Memoirs of a Geisha is to Kyoto.
1) Fly to Haneda not Narita International Airport
If you’re like me and Tokyo is your first stop, make sure to book your flight to land at Haneda, not Narita International Airport. Flying to Haneda will save you not only time but money as well. Narita airport is located about an hour or so away by train from central Tokyo. Although visitors can ride the Narita Express from Narita, a one-way trip costs around $30.00. Haneda airport, on the other hand, is closer to the heart of Tokyo, and visitors can reach the city center by riding the Tokyo Monorail and the JR Yamanote Line in about 25 minutes for a fraction of the price.
I’m currently reading Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, where she shares a list of lessons she has learned with difficulty while growing up. It’s a tad bit silly, yet contains a lot of truths.
Inspired by her list, I decided to create my own!
- If you keep waiting, you’ll never go.
- Take a cold shower at least once a week just to remind yourself how lucky you are to even have the choice.
- If you look at your boss and not want their job, it’s time to leave.
- Life is messy. We’re all just winging it.
- Nobody in the history of humanity has ever said, “I’m glad I ignored those red flags. It worked out.”
- Buy less but better.
- If you have to force it, leave it.
- Handwritten notes are always appreciated.
- Generic medications share the same active ingredients as the brand names.
- You can experience a moment without needing to document it on social media.
- Never stay in a shitty relationship. Not for your boyfriend/girlfriend’s sake. Not for your mom or dad. Not for your children.
- That path to financial freedom/security does not start with purposefully drowning yourself in $100,000+ in student loan debt to attend school.
- Pivoting a ship’s direction by a mere 15 degrees can drastically affect its final destination.
- If you don’t journal, you don’t grow.
- It’s not always easy finding the magic in the mundane. Try anyway.
- Traveling solo doesn’t mean traveling alone.
- When you realize you’re wrong in the middle of an argument, swallow your pride and own up to it. It will give you more credibility when you are right.
- You won’t lose weight if you keep waiting for yourself to feel like exercising or dieting.
- It only takes your brain five seconds to talk you out of waking up at 6:00am.
- You don’t have to wait for a crisis to change your life.
What are some secrets of adulthood you’ve learned? Feel free to share!