Today’s plan was to further explore the park and temples in the surrounding area before heading back to Tokyo in the afternoon or evening. When we got up though it was raining hard which put us off the idea. We had booked a traditional breakfast for this morning so we decided to re-think our plans while we ate.
In the evening of our day in Nara, we had a traditional Japanese kaiseki meal served in one of the hotel’s several dining rooms. Kaiseki meals consist of many small courses which are served some one after another and some in groups. There are traditional correct orders and ways to eat the courses but with our limited knowledge and the limited English of the staff we just got on with it and hoped not to cause any offence!
Today we are leaving Kyoto after our brief stay and heading to Nara. After our practice run yesterday, it was easy work to get to the JR Nara Express and settle in for the journey. We had heard that you can get there faster and cheaper and on nicer trains if you use a different railway line but since we had JR passes we decided to stick with what we knew. We arrived early in Nara and were glad that it was significantly warmer than it had been in Kyoto. We left our bags in lockers at Nara station and set off to explore.
Nanzen-ji has a huge gate house or sanmon which is several stories high. There are gardens and cherry blossoms too but the main attraction is the hojo temple building and its karesansui gardens considered to be among the most important of their kind. Originally a retreat for the emperor, the buildings were made into a temple following his death. Inside you can see traditionally decorated and furnished rooms and traditional zen gardens. You have to take your shoes off to enter the temple obviously but there isn’t much space to leave them so we ended up carrying our shoes around which was a little awkward.
On our second and last day in Kyoto, we intend to visit Fushimi Inari Taisha & Nanzen-ji temples and also walk the philosopher’s path. This turned out to be quite an ambitious plan and we did have to cut short some of the trips, especially the first one to fit everything in. I’d love to return in the autumn and spend more time in the hills and temples.