Meeting Japan: Hello Nara

Days since my last post: 13 

And my Japan posts begins! It's hard to believe that I've been to Japan and back now, but as my better half and I continuously look back at the pictures we've taken, I suppose reality has finally struck and we'll just start making plans to return. The outline of our trip was pretty straightforward, with our hub being Osaka and then we would travel by train to other places such as Nara and Kyoto with our Kansai Thru Pass.

NARA DEER PARK

"What's up, humans?"

Popular for their love for deer, Nara is a city in the Nara prefecture that borders the Kyoto prefecture and takes about 40 minutes by train from Osaka via the Kintetsu line. Get on from the Osaka Namba station, then off the Kintetsu-Nara station and boom you're there! It became our first destination mainly because it felt like the furthest from Osaka, and I had wanted my birthday to be a little more special than usual so watching real deer was the ultimate icing on the cake. 

Pet all the deer! 

As we alighted the train and walked out of the platform, we first asked the tourist information counter of where we could see the famed deer park in Nara where they supposedly roam free. After a brief exchange with what little my Japanese knowledge could make, my better half and I took a 5 minute walk when we came across this wondrous deer that was just by the street. I first told my other half that it was a fixture until I realized it would turn its head and started screaming that it was freaking alive! 

"The human has food."

If you've read that deer runs free around this area, then I can now tell you they're not joking. The deer however are not particularly violent, most of the time nonchalant about the humans that are excited at the sight of them. The only time you're attractive to them however is when you purchase deer senbei, or biscuits from the roadside stalls for about ¥100 a pack. 

"What do you mean you have no food?"

"Sorry humans, no food, no selfie."

These are perhaps the most materialistic deer there are however, because they ignore you to the max when you have no food. Life indeed. 

Nara deer park.

Random eatery.

Gorgeous views. 

We then explored the vicinity of the Nara deer park just a little, with the next destination in our mind. The views were unforgettable and very different from the bustling Osaka where we spent the rest of our days in. Nara felt like a laid back little town that was untouched by tourism, yet had quite the charm that makes you want to come back and explore the city just that little bit more. 
 
HARUSHIKA SAKE

Shop front.

Our next spot was a local sake brewery known as Harushika Sake, a place that I scoured out from the internet before our trip. They were famous for their in-house brewed sake, but on top of that also popular for their sake tasting experience. 

Tasting corner.

Enjoy it as is, or with an accompaniment of snacks.

Clear as can be. 

For only ¥500 a person, we were given the opportunity to taste up to 6 kinds of sake that were brewed here, though the regular deal permits you only 5 glasses. You then get to keep the sake glass (a new one will be given!) as a souvenir before exploring the little shop for sake and other goods. The experience was pretty out of the world, where a professional staff would take his or her time to explain the characteristics of the sake and engage in small talk with you as you chug down glasses and glasses of their specialties. The choices offered are also seasonal, so what I had in Autumn may not be what you'll be having in Spring. 

Bring some sake home?

Or perhaps other little things?

We both left Harushika Sake after about an hour or so with the tasting and exploring what to buy, and purchased 3 bottles of the Harushika Tokimeki as gifts and to drink while we were in Japan. Each 330ml bottle costed us ¥560 excluding tax but it was too good a sake to pass. I was thoroughly light headed after the 6 glasses of sake, and we stopped by a local diner for lunch but I suppose alcohol before a meal should never be a thing. 
 
HARUSHIKA SAKE
24-1 Fukuchiincho, Nara
Open daily from 8:15 AM to 5:15 PM 
Do arrive earlier for sake tasting, preferably an hour before closing.
 
We took off to Kyoto promptly after, leaving Nara behind as a beautiful start to our magical 11-day trip. We occasionally wonder if we should have spent a longer time in this little city, but perhaps it's the things we've missed that is giving us a reason to return. Like this shop below that sold knick knacks from erasers to sake, and other random snacks.

Also available: A touch of mystery.

And with that, goodbye Nara. We will come back for more. Especially for some quality time with the deer as we dig in to the best green tea ice cream we had throughout our trip in Japan. Sigh, I miss you so much.

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