The night before, we had talked about day 16 being our last in Kyoto and, although something was missing, we couldn’t put our finger on it. And then it struck us: we had completely forgotten visiting Nara.
We checked out of the hotel, took the subway and headed to Kyoto station with our luggage and dropped it off at the station lockers. We were headed to Nara but there had been an accident on our track, some 30 odd kilometers from the station, so our train got cancelled. We still had to take the train to Tokyo, because our JR passes would finish its 14 days of trips that very day, and we couldn’t take trains for free anymore after that. But another train to Nara took us there after a half an hour of waiting, and we were so happy it did.
Nara is a small town known by its Buddhist university, Buddhist temples and the deer that run free in almost all of the city, asking food from tourists. The deer used to be considered sacred by way of local folklore, but are still to this day National Treasures. And that’s why they are treated so beautifully everywhere. They are still wild animals that wander around, but they are by now used to all the people taking pictures and giving them food, so they are extremely friendly.
When we get to the temple of the Great Buddha inside Todai-ji, our jaws dropped to the floor. It’s the biggest temple we had seen so far, and we’ve seen some big ones! But the biggest surprise of all is what’s inside: a giant statue of a Buddha Vairocana sitting in a lotus flower, and each petal was bigger than any of us. It’s absolutely gigantic and it’s so detailed that you can feel like there’s something there to be worshipped.
We then had katsudon and oyakodon in a restaurant in the Nara covered market before heading to the station and getting on the train to Kyoto. But again, the rain messed our plans up. What was supposed to be a 40 minutes trip turned into an almost two hours, and we got to Kyoto station on the brink of our train to Tokyo. So we made good use of our JR passes one more time and got another two tickets for the next train. When we got to Tokyo, the air was just different. Somehow, our expectations had led us to believe that we would prefer Kyoto over Tokyo, because we like things simpler and small, but Tokyo is just… Tokyo. There’s really no way to explain it. It just is.
We were not in Harajuku anymore, but in the middle of the business district of Ginza, and it surprised us to see so many salary man and women happily drunk strolling the streets in groups or even alone. We knew that all of those people would have to get up pretty early in the morning the next day, but that didn’t seem to bother them, so it didn’t bother us, either. It was actually quite fun and insightful to see this side of Tokyo.