Welcome to the final installment of my visit to Japan this summer. After eight days of cruising through the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and everything in between, we have finally arrived at our last stop(s) in Japan: Nara Park and Osaka!
Let’s get to them, shall we?
First stop of the day was at Nara Park, a public park in the Nara Prefecture famously-known for having over 1200 deer, just roaming freely everywhere in the park among the tourists. Lots of people were at Nara that morning, including crowds of extremely-adorable Japanese children (probably kindergartners) in their matching hats and uniforms. Serious munchkins…I even saw tourists taking photos of the children, just because they were so cute!~ ❤
Anyway, the deer…they were cute, too. And beautiful: it amazes me that such an animal can be both at the same time! Interesting fact is that you can actually feed the deer: there are food stands in the park that sell crackers for the animals, so you can purchase them to feed the deer on your own. However, feed them at your discretion…the deer might be docile otherwise, but once they see you holding the crackers, they are vicious. They’ll swarm as a herd, eight to ten of them, and nip you in the clothing, your hips, your bag, anywhere in order to get those damn crackers. My parents and sister wanted to feed the deer, and that’s what happened to them! Crazy, I know, but it makes for excellent entertainment! 😉
We also checked out the Tōdai-ji, a Buddhist temple in Nara Park. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site which is home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue, and plenty of people visit to pay respect to it. Definitely grand in size and presentation upon stepping inside, I could see that!
Afterwards, we left Nara Park, had a sashimi lunch, then headed off to Osaka, our next and final destination in Japan. It was about a one-hour ride, and we arrived in Osaka in the early afternoon. Our first stop was to the iconic Osaka Castle, a fairy tale-like castle that helped bring together the country of Japan during the sixteenth century. There was a long line to take the elevator up to the top floor, but most of us in the tour opted to take the stairs, as there was less of a line to do so- and after all, it was only eight floors! 😉
Views from the top of the castle were decent, but as it was only eight floors tall, the sights couldn’t compare to those from Tokyo’s Skytree! Afterwards, I descended floor-by-floor, checking out the exhibitions about the castle’s history, the shoguns, emperors, and other important figures in Japanese history.
It was a bit drizzly that afternoon, but for me having just returned from an *equally-rainy* place (aka northern France), the light rain didn’t bother me too much! That said, we left after 16h00 to head over to our hotel in Osaka’s city center to check in and get settled.
Later that day, we took a tour of Dōtonbori, the downtown shopping/eating district. Despite the still-drizzly evening, swarms of tourists were out and about: eating, shopping, and everything in between. Along the way, we passed by the famous billboard for the Glico running man, apparently a huge icon in Japanese culture (has been featured in many films and even sports-related ventures!).
Our tour guide took us to a Japanese cheesecake store, where we were able to buy and try its take on the cheesecake dish. It was also the final stop on the tour where we said goodbye to our tour guide and fellow travelers, as the trip to Japan was coming to an end. We split off afterwards, doing our own things while exploring the nightlife in Osaka- and it was really hoppin’!
My family and I bought the cheesecake (and later trying it back at our hotel; definitely not your heavy, richly-crusted dessert back in the United States, but rather a light, sponge-y take on it. Not bad!), and then headed to the restaurant row of Dōtonbori for an early dinner. We wanted ramen, but in particular those which you eat while seated in underground stalls, the “traditional way,” as one can say. We found a ramen restaurant with stalls, and we super fortunate that we showed up early to order, sit down, and enjoy the food- after we finished and left, the queue was insane!
As for the ramen itself, it was quite tasty, although I would say that I could get a very similar quality back in the United States (especially my hometown of Los Angeles, which has a prominent Japanese community). Then again, I was eating ramen…in Japan! And that, folks, made it even more of an “authentic” experience, if I can say that. Customizing your portions (noodles, green onions, spiciness level) was a plus, too!
Finishing dinner, we left to explore a bit more of the nightlife. My sister wanted to get some takoyaki, a spherical batter that contains octopus pieces inside. It’s a popular street snack, and although I’m not a huge fan of the battered dish, it’s not bad, either. After that, we wandered a bit more in the shopping streets before heading back to our hotel.
Once we returned to the hotel, we showered and turned in for the night, thereby bringing our visit to Japan to an end.
…and that’s it for Japan, folks! Overall, my impressions of it are pretty much positive, as I did enjoy how much nature, cleanliness, and good food there was to experience in a short eight days. It was my first time ever visiting Japan, and I would have to say that, yes, I had a fun time, but it also wasn’t my favorite country that I’ve visited. Indeed, Japan was pretty as heck with its gorgeous scenery of green mountains, green fields, green trees, etc. True, the food was bomb, and there’s so much more to Japanese cuisine besides only sushi (and truthfully, I didn’t even have sushi whilst in Japan!). But I would have to say that…the temples and shrines, while nice in themselves, didn’t really connect with me, or rather, they weren’t of interest to me. If anything, I likened the number of temples and shrines I saw in Japan to the amount of churches and cathedrals I saw throughout Europe- and that was too much! I guess the point is that Japan, while lovely and all, doesn’t have a whole lot to do besides shopping and eating.
Nevertheless, Japan was well-worth the visit, and in fact, I would choose to return someday. Perhaps to Tokyo, to visit new districts as well as revisit old ones in-depth. Maybe Osaka, as we were only there for one night. Even venture to the other islands besides Honshu- Hokkaido always somewhat interested me, although I honestly don’t know what there is up north there. Guess we’ll have to see…
Any case, my travel posts aren’t over yet. Japan might be done, but I have yet to cover my adventures in Taiwan, as that was my next destination and there was lots of traveling involved over there, too. Stay tuned for those really soon, and until then, goodbye/さようなら! 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
Check me out on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/thefinickycynic