Since the pandemic this year, I've halted all of my travels. I stay at home when I can, and only go to work or to Osaka - which is my transfer point to and from work, so sometimes I just spend an hour or two around the station before I return home.
I took my first day trip out to Nara this October as a part of my one-day excursion with my school. Every year my school plans different one-day excursions for each grade to go to different places. This year, one group was sent to Nara, and I got to follow along.
You may have heard that some schools have virtual excursions, but I think this is mostly for graduation trips - and even still, like the article I linked mentioned, most schools are opting to push the trip and postponing instead. And during my day out in Nara, I saw plenty of other schools out and about. So it definitely wasn't just our school taking advantage of the Go To Travel campaign.
ALSO! This is actually a good time to mention that, it's quite rare for people working as an English teacher to get to go on school trips. ALTs are mostly just guests at the school, and some schools probably see us as a liability anyway. But as a direct hire ALT, you may have a higher chance to join these one-day trips.
This is definitely something I will miss when my direct hire contract comes to an end. :(
Anyway, enough moping, here's how Nara is like since the pandemic started:
This is my first time arriving in Nara not by train, and I only just noticed that they have what seems like a revamped (coach) bus terminal because it looks really brand new and very elegant! There is one souvenir shop, and one restaurant here. But the restaurant wasn't opened, as they probably don't need to anyway due to lack of tourists.
Here's a comparison of the same photo I took of Kasuga Taisha in 2015 (left), and the one I took during this trip in 2020 (right). Both of them are on weekdays.
There are still a good number of Japanese local tourists, and non-Japanese as well - which I suspect are local residents of Japan themselves (unless they've somehow sneaked through). But point is, the numbers of people visiting are at a very comfortable amounts.
I'm sure most of you are curious about this. The deer.
The deer themselves don't look too bad anymore. Most of them don't seem to be really thin or losing weight. Of course, they will always act like greedy little hungry hippos as long as you are holding the deer crackers. And fight for them, as I was lucky enough to capture when my student dropped her cracker on the ground out of fear.
I mean, how could you resist feeding them when they come at you like this...
Please, take all my monies!!!
Now... Todaiji was busy, but nowhere as busy as before. Mostly just locals and students on day excursions, like mine are.
There's supposedly a crawlspace in one of the pillars that you can normally go into, but due to COVID19, it's been completely blocked off by plywood. I'm sure once the situation gets better, they will reopen it back up. But for now, it's a good chance to just take in this magnificent structure without hoards of tourists.
I've been to Nara plenty of times, but I admitted never paid to go into Todaiji. I always just stood right where the huge wooden fences were and took a photo of the temple like a frugal tourist that I am.
It really is pretty spectacular seeing it in person.
The trip would be incomplete without going up to Nigetsudo for this view.
I was here once late afternoon, and a local told me that I had to go up to Nigetsudo for the sunset. I wish I still had pictures of it then, but it really was a beautiful spot to see the sunset. I highly recommend it myself on a sunny day like this. Unfortunately, I would have gone home by sunset this time.
A bit to the south of the park, but often missed, is Ukimi-do. It's honestly not that far, but I don't think many people go looking for it unless they came across it accidentally. It's definitely easy to miss - but something I highly recommend going to see.
Last time I was here, a couple was taking their wedding photos in their outfits. It must have turned out really beautiful for them, as it was also a nice sunny out then too.
From Ukimi-do, it's about another 5-10 minute walk (depending on whether or not you get distracted by deer and how fast you walk) to Naramichi - your restaurants, shops, souvenirs and goods. It's basically where you would get food.
I opted for some Taiwanese Tofu snack/dessert at Sarasawa Doufua. I wasn't too hungry that day.
Very quaint little shop. The tofu desserts weren't bad at all.
I also dropped by my favourite tea shop, Tamuraseihoen, to stock up on my Hojicha loose leaves. They roast the most aromatic hojicha, and I highly recommend their Karigane Hojicha on their website. This blend is extremely floral and if you like the stronger kinds of hojicha, you'll like this one very much!
Don't forget to hop by Nakatanido for that mochi. You know, this one that circulated all over the web where the workers were pounding mochi at a speed of light? Yeah, that's in the Naramichi area!
Lastly, this trip wouldn't be complete if I didn't see Kofuku-ji and the five-story pagoda. So I crossed through the park again back to the bus terminal just to see it.
As you can see, very easy nowadays to get really clear shots of attraction without people getting in your way. I'll absolutely treasure these photos as best as I can!
I really enjoy Nara Park every once in awhile. I think it's very easy to navigate around, since most attractions are contained without a few kilometers of walkable distance. Unlike Kyoto, which yes - there are more things to do, but you'll need to take subways and trains (unless you like walking but you'll waste a lot of time). The area is also quite flat overall, and you don't need to rush if you are travelling in big groups or with elderly members of family.
That's it for today. Thanks everyone for stopping by!!
While there are no major outbreaks of COVID19 in Japan anymore, I still just want to say that you shouldn't travel if you have symptoms. If you do travel locally, please exercise caution. Wear a mask, sanitize, etc etc. You might not die, but you might kill tons of other people in the process.
Thanks again for reading today's Photo Blogtober!