Japan: Nara & Uji

Deer Park in Nara, Japan.
Body: 

We left Osaka in the early afternoon and arrived in the bustling, contemporary Kyoto Station. Just riding up the multiple levels of escalators to the rooftop of the huge department store adjacent to the station was quite a trip. 

We booked tickets in advance for the Kyoto Butoh-Kan performance for the evening we arrived, and it was amazing.  Butoh-kan is a type of silent theatre or dance performance, where the body control and movements are unique. The Kyoto Butoh-Kan space is inside of an old Japanese storehouse, with seating for about 8 persons. For something uniquely Japanese where language isn't a barrier, it's a unique experience. 

Dinner was at Marugame Seimen Kawaramachi Sanjo, a great and inexpensive semi self-service udon house, where a bowl of noodles can be accompanied by fried chicken, tempura and other add-ons. For about $10-$15 you come hungry and leave stuffed.

On our first of four full days in Kyoto, we hired a car/driver and guide to cover the highlights of Nara, the old capital, and Uji, the green tea capital. Nara is about an hour by local train or car, In Nara we visited Kasuga Shrine and the deer park. Todai-ji, whose famous Buddha is rated as one of Japan's top 3 sites (after Mt. Fuji and the Golden Pavilion).  The bronze Buddha was cast in 746 and is the largest bronze statue in the world, and housed in the largest wooden building in the world. Yoshiki-en, a small private garden, was a restful respite from the spacious grounds and tourists at the temple.

We strolled through the old town district of Naramichi before driving to Uji, where we enjoyed matcha noodles, green tea gyoza, green tea and green tea soft ice cream. Here the highlights included Byodoin temple, which is featured on the back of the 10 yen coin. Byodoin is a very special place, very scenic, and inspite of the crowds, it's well worth visiting. We also visited Mimurotoji, steep upward climb past tea farms and known for its flowers, and Ujigami Shrine, which was a far less visited, smaller temple in the forest, and the oldest Shinto shrine.

Certainly one can spend a full day in Nara, if not an overnight. We skimmed the highlights, but weren't rushed in what we saw, and took time to pet the deer in the deer park and exchange bows with them.  Uji is closer to Kyoto than Nara, and worth a half-day excursion.

Dan Ilves