Monday, November 7, 2011

Nara's Big Buddha, Deer in the Public Park, and Tofu

Last week on Thursday, because school was on holiday, my host mom offered to take me to the neighboring prefecture of Nara to see the Daibutsu, or Big Biddha. This is the biggest Buddha statue in the world, from what I've heard. She also said that there is a famous only tofu restaurant nearby the public park, which happened to have hundreds of deer living there. I was totally in.
We drove for an hour and a half, blasting Lady Gaga the entire way. We are really best friends, in place of a student/host parent relationship, for which I'm really glad. The drive was really fun and full of laughs. I attempted to translate Gaga's obscure lyrics and she didn't understand and of it, which was fine.

We arrived, and I suggested to use the free bicylce rental service the city offered. We spent the next 30 minutes biking to the Big Buddha, through the city. It was my favorite part of the trip- Nara is really hilly, and the day's weather was just cool enough. The breeze in my hair and the fun of gliding around the streets and in between traffic was just the best.

Passing a public park, I noticed deer. Lots of them.

We stopped and I took pictures with them. There were deer sleeping, running, and eating from people's hands (they sold deer food for people to give them). They were all friendly (to me!). I saw some charge at some people because they ran out of food to give. Some people were overly freaking out over the really well behaved ones too. They were screaming and backing up and saying 'Go away!' as they were holding food to give them. Why wouldn't you want to get close to them if you wanted to give them food anyways? Crazy people.
There were even some babies, but they were extra cautious and ran away if you tried to pet them.
The males had their antlers shaved down so people didn't get injured.

We kept on biking uphill untill we reached the huge temple housing the Big Buddha. It was amazing to behold. It was made entirely of wood, and a meticulous amount of detail was payed. The chair he sits in, and the background featuring many mini Buddhas, and even the wrinkles in his clothing were all very realistic and lifelike. The temple was packed with avid admirers. Many people added incense to big steel vases full of ash, in order to pray to him.

This last picture is of a nearby pagoda, or tower.

After that, we went to the tofu restaurant. It was really fancy and had a great atmosphere. Literally everything they served, save for the rice and tea, was tofu. I was shocked how many different flavors and dishes you can make out of one simple and plain food. It was delicious! I was really glad I got to try so many new various dishes.

Everything was surprisingly packed with flavor!

On the drive home that evening, my host mom asked if I wanted to skip the next 2 days of school to go to Hiroshima with my older, college student host sister. I immediately said yes. It was one of the best decisions of my exchange. I will blog about Friday and Saturday later. Now, I'm off to bed.

Osaka with Tim and Justin

On Saturday the 29th, Tim and his roommate Justin came down from Tokyo. We met at Osaka station and I took them around the city. There were tons of attractions and the day was really full of fun stuff. We went to a bunch of places through the extensive subway system, because our aquarium tickets also functioned as all day city transportation passes (smart move, Osaka!). Justin dropped his stuff off at the hostel, but Tim was planning on staying at my host parent's house.

First we went to the aquarium, but decided to eat lunch first. We had Okonomiyaki made right in front of us, on a huge iron stove built into the table. We also had yakisoba. Both of these are specialties in Osaka so they were really excited! (though I was probably more excited, I like food, derp)

Thanks for taking these pics, Tim!

After eating at the nearby mall, we entered the aquarium. The Osaka Kaiyuukan is the biggest in the city! It was 4 stories high, and on the edge of Osaka bay! There were such a variety of fish, whales, sharks, otters, dolphins, and crabs. It was amazing! I had a lot of fun taking pictures of everything I could see. I also bought some little souviniers like a shitajiki (a plastic sheet you place under the paper you're writing on in a notebook, so it doesn't press through) which has like 6 otters staring at the camera. ADORABLE. And I got a squid keychain for my cell phone. It was a great visit!

This is a picture of the Kaiyuukan from the outside. It's huge!

After that, we went accross the city to Osaka Castle, famous in the area for it's location, size, and condition. The sun was just beginning to set so the indoor tours had stopped. But we took tons of pictures of the castle and the surrounding motes, bridges, and forests. The area outside of the castle's mote is a public park, and there were tons of people hanging out. Some walking their dogs, some racing remote control cars, others training for the upcoming city marathon. It gave a very peaceful, and healthy atmosphere. If the subway tickets weren't so expensive, I would go there to jog more often.

The area around the castle was a great place to just relax and rest your legs after a day of sightseeing.

When night fell, we returned (allllll the way back) to the aquarium, to ride on the ferris wheel. It was lit up in bright green! It was one of the scariest things I had done in Japan, I was cowering in the corner of the cart the entire ride. It was incredibly tall- we could see in all directions, over the bay and accross the city. It would have been even cooler if I hadn't been flipping out.

It was incredibly unnerving.

Then we decided we should eat some more food, so I took them to Namba. I had a restaurant, Gyouza no Ousama, a famous Chinese food chain. Chinese food in Japan is way different from America. It is way better. It actually resembles mainlaind Chinese food, most likely because it isn't as far a journey to travel, meaning things are brought over from China and they remain pretty much the same. It was delicious of course!

Chinese food done RIGHT. Cheap, too!

And of course, being in Namba, we had to take our picture with the nationally known landmark, Glico Man! Glico is a famous candy company which makes tons of money even to this day. Every day, hundreds of people take their pictures posing like the Glico man! We were such tourists, but you know what, who cares.

Everyone was wearing Halloween costumes, even though it was the Saturday before. I guess it's because no one really does anything on the actual day! Especially a weekday. I did nothing. Made me feel like something was missing from my life!

Anyways, Tim came over to my house and stayed in the spare room. We bought snacks at the convinience store and stayed up late and gossiped and ate chocolate. It was a good day.