Japan 2012 (Nara and Kyoto)

Leaving Osaka, I took the Kintetsu Nara Line eastwards to Yamatosaidaiji station. This station had a lot of choices for Japanese food inside. I chose the cheapest plate of curry rice for $5. I put $3.75 in a coin operated locker to keep my heavy bag while I looked around the ancient capital of Nara. I changed to the Kintetsu Kashihara Line and got off at Nishinokyo station. Here it was a short walk to the world heritage site Yakushi-ji Temple. Across the street was a memorial to Chinese traveler monk Xuanzang.

Walking north, I noticed a new Japanese style house being built. Interesting to get a peek at how it is built including a concrete foundation with a one foot high crawl space. Everything above that is wood except for the roof tiles and a few metal brackets. Next to the new house was another very old temple calls Toshodai-ji. It was interesting to see how they rebuilt one of the structures over ten years.

After some walking and another train, I made it to downtown Nara. I was here five years ago and noted the Kofuku-ji temple had a plan to rebuild but maybe it would take 50 years. That was an exaggeration. They are making progress and have a schedule posted. Started construction in 2010 and will finish in 2018. Still quite a long time for a building with a single floor.  This time I made sure to visit the Kofuku-ji treasure house, which is a museum holding a lot of unique artifacts. The most famous is the statue of an Ashura. Then I went to Todai-ji temple (also visited here five years ago), the biggest wooding building in the world and still very impressive to me.

After sightseeing in Nara, I picked up my bag and took a train to Kyoto. An interesting note is the parking structures at train stations. I saw a three level parking structure, but it held spots for cars. All for motorcycles and bicycles. I remember China was famous for bicycles, but I think not anymore. Japan is more serious.

In Kyoto, I walked around Nishikujo Toriiguchicho shopping mall. There was one store where kids were playing card battles. Another store with N scale model railroad products; so small but looks like the standard here. I also found two buffet restaurants. One was $23 and the other had one price for men ($21) and women ($20). Too bad the food didn’t look too great. No sushi or anything special. The buffet also has a time limit of 90 minutes. I was interested to see the Yoshoku or western style food. This is very common in Japan, but almost never found in Japanese restaurants outside of the country. I decided to try omurice, an omelet filled with fried rice. It tasted fine, but it was $6 for something that seemed so simple.

I’m convinced Kyoto Station is the strangest train station in the world. I spent hours walking around the station waiting for my bus later that night. At 15-stories tall, this building has a hotel, shopping malls, a skywalk, public roof areas, escalators and dark hallways that seemingly go nowhere important. What it doesn’t have is a waiting area with seats.

I had a bus scheduled at 10:30PM from Kyoto Station to Tokyo. At $50 for an eight hour bus, this was the cheapest way of getting to Tokyo short of hitchhiking. The bus companies had no physical office. I had bought the ticket online and wrote down my reservation number. At night, some employees setup a temporary table outside and checked in passengers. Most of the passengers turned out to be foreigners. All the foreigners kept talking and talking. Finally, a bus employee told them to be quiet since this is a night bus and people are trying to sleep. A reminder of how polite Japanese are in comparison to the rest of the world.