The vlog and post this week are a bit short because I only spent about 24 hours in Nara, but it really was love at first sight.
Compared to the cities of Tokyo and Osaka, Nara feels like rural town. Like Kyoto, Nara contains a lot of Japan’s historical sites, but it would be unfair to describe Nara as a smaller Kyoto. Nara’s heritage sites feel older, richer. While walking through Todaiji and Kasuga-taisha, the air feels heavy. The only way I can describe this feeling is that you are hit with the weight of history. As an American, many of the historical sites I’ve visited have been monuments, war memorials, and colonial buildings that have all felt vaguely contemporary. But because of Nara’s history as the first capital of Japan, several sites are over a thousand years old. I am hesitant to use language that would exotify another culture. With that caveat, the sheer length of history fills me with a sense of awe. I cannot fathom living in an era with only three digits. I cannot imagine how the people who built these temples and shrines lived their lives.
I stuck to touristy areas while in Nara, but even so the pace and atmosphere were incredibly calming. Nothing beats a walk in the park while deer roam around, just doing their thing. I fed them leaves I pulled off trees (they liked some leaves better than others though!) so they weren’t very aggressive. However, if you want to buy the deer treats from the vendors, be prepared to get a whole lot of deer in your personal space (read: crotch).
There were so many different shops selling deer charms, sweets, and other kinds of omiyage. My one regret is not having the appetite to try some of the local sweets. Besides shrines and temples, Nara is also rich in cafes. There was one particular cafe that appeared to be owl themed. I’d 100% go back to Nara just to go inside. A lot of people recommend Nara as a day trip, but I think spending a few days in Nara while exploring at a leisurely pace would be the best way to see Nara. You really gotta go slow and savor each moment here! It’s such a charming city, and however long your stay is in the Kansai area, I really think that Nara is a must-see.
Because my stay in Nara was so short, I only had three places on my official itinerary: Nara Park, Todai-ji, and Kasuga-taisha. Wandering around I also saw Horyu-ji, Wakamiya-jinja, Meoto Daikokusha, Sajuhassho-jinja, and Kinryu-jinja. I didn’t even realize that I passed by so many shines and temples until I sat down and drafted this post. A lot of the photos of the smaller shrines are on my Instgram highlights (@jamu.jpg) if you’d like to take a peek. If you only have one place you can visit in Nara, without a doubt that you should go to Kasuga-taisha, but on your way there, you’ll probably pass by a lot more than you realize.
After arriving in Nara, I immediately changed into this blue dress because I knew I wanted a photo wearing it with the deer. I actually bought this dress — Ralph Lauren for Big Girls lol — just for Nara. The different stripes give the dress a unique flair. Also, it has pockets. The sandals are from Gap, but I’d recommend wearing closed shoes since the deer like to poop everywhere. :^)
On the second day I wore a scarlet tea dress from ASOS and Adidas Stan Smiths. This was my first time styling a dress with sneakers. I didn’t hate it, but it’s not quite my style. It was a lot easier to walk with my injured foot though!
While in Nara, I stayed at Smile Hotel Nara. It was super convenient to get to. You can see it from the train station and it’s a five minute walk from the station. I didn’t even need to use google maps! It’s about a 35 minute walk from Nara Park. The area is really charming and there’s so many shops en route to the park.
The hotel itself was very cute, with deer plushes in the lobby and free coffee after 3pm. I forgot to take a photo of the bed, but it was super comfy I promise! Like my hotel in Osaka, they provided a nightgown and slippers.
In order to use electricity, you have to keep your key in a little slot, similar to how card key hotels work. They also provided basic toiletries. My favorite part of the room was that the sink had a dial that let you know what temperature the water was. It controlled the shower temperature as well.
After sharing Jess’s music last week, I realized that I want to be able to share my friends’ art with every blog post. My friends are so incredibly talented and I want to be able to share their works with the world, even if “the world” is just the few dozen people that read through my blog.
This week I want to show off my friend Winnie’s embroidery. Embroider is a hobby for her, but I swear her work is on par with a pro. I love the way she shades her pieces, and everything she works on is incredibly intricate. I’m in awe of every tiny detail on her hoop. She’s inspired me to get back into embroidery as well.