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Day 101- Oh Deer!

Day trip to Nara


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13th March
We both woke up giddy, feeling like yesterday was maybe a dream until we saw the evidence on Izzy's (my fiancé's finger... sounds so weird and grown up saying that!). Once we recovered and after a bit of reminiscing it was time for another train (you know to get our money's worth out of the JR pass); this time to Nara.

We had heard many reviews about how beautiful this place is; surrounded by shrines and where the deer walk freely. Plus as the deer are wild it's not like the place could be closed! We took a slow walk from the station, hand in hand, surrounded by our little bubble!

It was insane how many deer there were. Initially we saw only the odd one but as we approached the park their numbers increased, until they were everywhere. They outnumbered the people here about 6 to 1, however again this is probably the impact of the virus. They all looked so darn cute, especially the young ones that were the spitting image of Bambi! After a little time stroking and just observing them we chose to go and buy some biscuits to feed them. We imagined it being a lovely experience whereby the deer would circle around you and would eat the biscuits one at a time out of your hand. There was also a heard rumour that the Japanese had taught these deer to bow for their food. Idyllic!

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Well forget that perfect image as that is not how it went down AT ALL! Before we could even purchase the food one deer had somehow knocked nuts from the vendor everywhere and she tried to fight off the stampede that followed to save her produce. During this time Izzy was also being surrounded and harassed by the hungry deer with one particular stag continually ramming into her bum. Lucky their antlers had been cut otherwise it would have been an even more unpleasant experience. After the woman recovered Izzy had the biscuits and boy did the deer know! Literally every deer in that small section of the park were headed her way. A little intimidated she gave me the biscuits. Now I knew they would follow me but I didn't expect the way they enclosed you and were biting my coat trying to get to the goodies. At one point I must have had 30 deer around me. I couldn't even juggle the biscuits quick enough to give them. There was no bowing, no orderly feeding fashion this was just a frenzy. Although cute when there are that many attacking you it is pretty scary. The biscuits lasted about 2 minutes and after you showed them your empty hands they lost interest.

The below video is me looking like Santa Claus shortly before it properly kicked off and pictures of Iz standing nervously waiting to buy the biscuits:

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Returning to the bench rubbing my bite mark on my arm and Izzy nursing her bum we reflected on our traumatic experience. I imagine they are used to flocks of tourists feeding them all day, with enough people to divide the group up. But with the drop off travellers I imagine they are hungry and therefore run, leap and barge their way to get what food is available that isn't grass. Once we had recovered and the deer had calmed down we again could appreciate their beauty but wouldn't be purchasing anymore snacks. We sat they for a while more to witness others have their feeding experience before walking further into the park. We reached all the way to one of the main shrines and looked in some shops before heading back to the station to fit in some of the areas we didn't get to see yesterday.

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We experienced our first and so far only issue with the Japanese Rail with a few delays but we eventually reached Kiyomizu-dera. This was the location of another UNESCO heritage temple and the Jishu Shrine. This shrine had been somewhere I had been looking to take Izzy yesterday as it is dedicated to Okuninushi, a god of love and matchmaking. This place had also been on the list of a potential proposal location. In front of the shrine there are also two love stones, which are 18 meters apart. Legend says that if you can find your way from one stone to the other with your eyes closed (no cheating) you will find true love. If you unfortunately miss the stone then your desire for love will not be fulfilled. I thought all these little symbols would make it a perfect location to potentially propose or as that was already completed test our love. However as we were only really interested in the shrine and not bothered about another temple we decided that 800 yen each was too steep a price to test if we had found true love; especially as we seemed pretty convinced already... Well that and the fact that as we are so clumsy one of us (probably me) would end up in the river. So we gave it a miss and after a few pictures headed back down the steep slope and back to Gion to have a deeper explore of the area and the shops we liked so much.

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It was fun just walking around together without any real plan and enjoying this beautiful city that now would forever be a part of our story. We even saw a real life Geisha running between buildings. To further cement our promise of lifelong commitment to each other there was only one place we could go to celebrate... McDonald's! Having a much better nugget experience here than in the Philippines we were pretty happy even if they had misunderstood Izzy's order. Plus it was the cleanest and friendliest McDonald's we had ever been in. A stark contrast to our previous local in Brixton! Satisfied and full it was back to the hotel to pack up and relax with a film ready for our train to Hiroshima the next day.

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Posted by Bears on Tour 18:32 Archived in Japan Tagged kyoto japan nara engaged deer gion nara_deer love_steps Comments (0)

Day 99- Kyoto Arrival; Rain, Shopping & Caricature


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11 March
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Stew hadn’t slept well so I got up to make eggy bread for breakfast with the intention of waking him up when it was ready but apparently made such a ruckus I woke him up before I’d even opened the beans (although in fairness, I was opening beans without a can opener so it was a tough task from the outset). We made breakfast together, probably for the best as he’s a better cook than me. We checked out of the little apartment and jumped on the train to Kyoto, only a short 15 minute train away. We found our hotel, looking super fancy, and dropped our bags off since it was only 11am and we couldn’t check in till 3. We only had two and a half days to explore the city so had to make use of every spare second.

Walking up to Ninjo Castle, we considered whether it would be closed or not. Of course it was! Well part of it, they were offering half price admission but with it pouring down with rain and as it was only the gardens open we decided to skip it.

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Instead we cowered in a 7-Eleven before buying an umbrella (everyone in Japan seems to have the same 7-Eleven umbrella so it must be pretty decent). We continued on our way to Kyoto Imperial Palace, free admission and all open! Win! Since they didn’t have an English audio guide we used the guide book to learn about the place, it seemed every building was just used for ceremonies.

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There was a lovely designed gardens with a funny story of princes and royals sitting in the river and placing a glass of wine in the water with them and taking it in turns to make up a poem before the glass had floated past... or you miss a drink, I think this is the Royal version of smoosh. I found it amusing such a pompous drinking game.

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We headed to an area called Gion where authentic geishas spent a lot of time in. We were amazed at all the beautiful kimonos, although, not seeing an geishas, we just saw lots of teenage girls hanging out with their friends all dressed Up. They all look beautiful except they all have baggy oversized unfitted white socks and clogs. We had seen kimono's elsewhere but here everyone was wearing them.

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The shops were full of crafts and some lovely souvenirs. We bought a pair of cherry blossom earrings as an early birthday present to me amongst a few gifts. There was an art studio with anime styled caricature, having previously discussed this being a great souviner of our trip to Japan we went inside. There was loads of different styles and we asked to be drawn in kimono and as a samurai with a background we’d seen in another drawing although unaware of where it was. Sitting there was an anxious wait. Having a large nose I assumed this was going to be the main focus! We sat for half an hour before setting the final product... we love it!

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We quickly checked out one of the local shrines beforeb heading to the hotel to check in and find some dinner. Our room was super fancy, being used to travelodge’s, we get very excited at the luxury. A simple 7/11 bento box filled out tummies and an evening spent writing blog- were so far behind!

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Posted by Bears on Tour 19:38 Archived in Japan Tagged kyoto kimono gion bento caricature Comments (0)

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