If you want your senses to be overwhelmed, go to Nishiki market. A tiny maze of alleys, this market is chalk full of little stalls hawking goodies from fish to tea to fans. In one place the smell of squid and sea will fill your nose, but one step to the left and you’ll sniff the wonderful scent of fried dough. One could get lost in the beautiful labyrinth that it is, really. Pay attention to where you’re going.
Busy filling up on little snacks I didn’t take too many photos. We tried out sashimi on a stick (tuna marinated in soy sauce), rice buns with seaweed, matcha mochi, and Dad tried little grilled squid that I couldn’t come to try due to the presence of their little legs and eyes.
A greater pedestrian mall is attached, with more conventional stores that sell clothes and souvenirs. It was not all too busy when we arrived, around 9:30. The crowds picked up as we got closer to lunch time, and soon we were shoulder to shoulder — but not too uncomfortable.
We took a taxi over to Kyoto Station in order to make a rendez-vous with our tour group to Nara. Finding ourselves an hour early, we hopped on the elevator to the top of Kyoto Tower (for about $7). With 360º views of the city, we were able to orient ourselves and all of the locations we had visited over the last couple days. It was cool to see all of these sights from above and all the little people walking around below.
In Nara we made two stops: the Great Buddha and the Kasuga Taisha shrine.
The Great Buddha is the largest bronze-casted Buddha in the world and is housed in the largest wooden building in the world. The building, burned down and rebuilt in the 1700’s, is capped by two golden fish tails, meant to protect the building from fire. In the grounds surrounding the temple (and the couple of parks nearby) tame deer roam freely, feasting off of biscuits visitors readily buy. They are cute, but pushy. Buy a thing of biscuits and you’ll soon be surrounded, and some will nip at you to get a treat.
The Buddha itself is of course massive. Admiring the building and the bronze figure in front of you, it is incredible to think this was all created over 300 years ago– and to think that each time the building was rebuilt, it was smaller than the original!
The Kasuga Taisha shrine is well known for the stone lanterns that line the path to the temple. Here again, sacred deer roam freely but not to the same numbers as before.
Our return to Kyoto caught us hungry, so on our walk back to our hotel we stopped at a local BBQ joint. With no English menu and friendly staff, we knew we hit the jackpot. We served up some Kobe beef barbecue with the house marinade and sauce and oh boy was it good. It was the most tender meat I’ve had in my life. That, with a cup of hot tea and rice, made the evening swell.