Somehow we (mainly Jacquie) kept getting bitten by mosquitoes, even in an a/c hotel room. But at least our prayers had been answered and the rain had stopped, so it looked like a nice day ahead of us in Nara, one of the ancient capitals of Japan roughly 40 minutes outside of Osaka. We reached the town without issue and ate a teriyaki MOS Burger (I would kill for one of those right now) at the Nara station. We thought about renting bikes but the streets were still wet from an early morning rain and we didn’t want to get stuck.
We set out on the long stroll through the small town towards the lonely planet ‘walking tour’ route, pausing at a temple for a moment but couldn’t figure out what it was. We continued on and saw a feature unique to Nara – the first of several dozen tame deer. They were awesome, just like big dogs, and vendors were selling stacks of wafers to feed them. We’d walk through a crowd of people and suddenly you’d see a deer in the center of the road begging for food. Hilarious.
We finally found an awesome garden mentioned in the guidebook. It sounds boring but it was actually kind of inspiring – I now want to terraform the land like that garden. It was the ultimate hid and seek location, with tiny hills, small gazebos, artful hedges, a water mill, a lake with miniature islands, not to mention the scenery was a painting from every viewpoint. It was only missing a cave.
We continued on to the main event, a giant temple that is literally the largest wooden building in the world. It was built without any nails. I don’t get it either. The temple gatehouse featured two of the coolest statues I’ve ever seen. Hands down. They were carved from wood a couple hundred years ago but they looked just like super huge, super detailed manga characters. Frankly I don’t know how they’re not as famous as that David thing in Florence. Totally impressive.
There seemed to be some sort of holiday happening because outside the temple gates were over a dozen small marching bands that took off on parade one by one. We weren’t sure where they were headed but it was cool watching everyone cheer them on. Now all the trouble we had finding a hotel for the weekend was beginning to make sense.
Jacquie’s feet were really hurting bad by this point so we didn’t go inside the temple to see the giant bronze buddha, and she sat on some steps nearby while I ran ahead to a subtemple with a beautiful view for a few minutes.
Then we randomly splurged on an assortment of Mister Donut treats. I thought for sure they would be some of the best donuts I’d ever eaten but they were actually very disappointing. I think the Japanese have a different idea of what a donut should taste like.
On the way back to the station we kept running into the marching bands as they paraded through town. Pretty cool. And then I heard a familiar melody from several blocks away. No… could it be?
Sure enough a Super Mario band was heading our way! I was ecstatic. I started shooting video immediately as several Luigi’s, koopas, squid-hatted drummers and a drag queen princess peach paraded by while blasting out the SMB World 1-1 theme! That totally made my day. Check out the video.
Back to Osaka, we tried to give Kita a second chance and decided to walk all the way there since it was such a nice night. As usual, we got a little lost, but eventually we stumbled on an area full of small restaurants and pubs and realized this was the real #2 nightlife area in Osaka! We never even came close that first night.
Unfortunately we couldn’t find a place that felt right, especially since many of them were already closing up. So we rode the subway back and enacted Plan B – just find something close to our hotel.
We walked around for several blocks but kept getting stymied – too expensive, too crappy, too weird. Finally – FINALLY – a seat opened up at a normal-looking gyoza bar. Good thing too, because that place was awesome! Easily the best gyoza I’ve ever had and the food and drinks were phenomenally priced. It felt like the Japanese version of Ye Rustic, my go-to wing and beer pub in my hood. We ate a ton; beers, sake, gyozas, salad and two bowls of rice. We left satisfied and very happy.
It was the perfect way to end our time in Osaka. Tomorrow it was on to Kyoto!