The Kansai Episode: As Dear Like It

Dear just fine animals.

We decided today would be as good as any to take a day trip out of the ancient Japanese capital. Visiting old cities like Kyoto and Beijing can be rather monotonous as it’s easy to suffer from “temple fatigue” – becoming “de-sensitized” to the historical relevance of the site. Plus Kyoto felt old – it has a very distinct aging population, and I felt my youth being sapped away from me the longer I exposed myself to all the elements. Jokes aside, Nara is one of those “must-do” cities when in Kansai, so I guess we had to. From Kyoto, there are two ways to get to Nara: the JR West Nara Line and the Kintetsu via the Kintetsu Kyoto Line and Nara Line. With our Kansai Thru Pass at hand, we took the Kintetsu. My travel partner wanted to avoid the extra costs (JPY 500) attached to riding on the Limited Express, so I was like, “fuck it”, and paid his share as well.

Many tourists tend to omit the city from its itinerary primarily because most existing cross-country trips favor the various heavily discounted JR rail passes especially if the total stay is in upwards of 16 days. While JR West does offer access to the historic city, the station is at the wrong side of the city as opposed to the Kintetsu Nara station which is a walkable distance to much of Nara’s attractions. After a quick lunch in the vicinity of Kintetsu Nara station, we were advised by the station’s tourist information centre that the city’s very much walkable, and it wouldn’t take too long to see most of the city’s sights. For the both of us, we decide that we’d only see the sights nearest to the station. Just as well, since those are the most well-known ones.

While the ancient Japanese book, Nihon Shoki says that the name “Nara” is derived from the Japanese word, narsu “to flatten”, and the city itself is located on the flat Nara Basin, modern schools suggest that it comes from the Korean word, “nara” meaning country kingdom. This is especially meaningful since  Nara was actually the capital of Japan from 710 to 784. Nara isn’t Nara without its famous deer which are regarded heavenly animals, and roam around the city. Just walk east from Kintetsu Nara station, and you’ll find yourself in the middle of packs all around. They are very tame, and feeding them “shika sembei” (deer biscuits) is encouraged, although some tourists, including us, do eat it ourselves.

On the train to Kintetsu Nara station.

Lunch. Note the odd Vietnamese spring roll.

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