When we booked our accommodation for Nara, I noticed a link on the New Wakasa Hotel website to a free tour guide club. I went on a walking tour during my first visit to Nara and had such a fantastic time seeing Todaiji, Daibutsu, and Kasuga Taisha (among so many other things) and decided that a guide showing us a few places further away from the city and park would be fun.
We awoke early for breakfast and I felt awful. My throat and head felt as dreadful as they had since we left Cairns (probably due to the cold air during night photography – still worth it!). We donned our yukata and we waddled downstairs in the hotel slippers to enjoy our meal.
After breakfast we proceeded to the pharmacy. With assistance from google translate and our phrasebook, I explained my symptoms to the pharmacist and he directed us to some medication. Through lots of broken Japanese, English and hand gestures, he made it clear that I should take it three times a day after food to help relieve my symptoms.
We checked out with our items and went outside to the shotengai adjacent to the Kintetsu station so I could find some water to take my medication with. We stopped, and I opened the packet to find that it was.. powdered.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. Swallow the powder? Mix it with water? Feeling slightly less gaijin than the evening prior, I dipped my finger in the packet to taste it. Urgh. Definitely not to be mixed with water. I braced myself, said “Ganbare!”, emptied the packet into my mouth with some water and swallowed. Really urgh. It turned out to be very effective.
Our guide Junko met us at the Kintetsu station and we set off for the day. She was fantastic – asked us lots of questions and shared lots of her personal experiences. We took to her immediately.
Our first official stop of the tour was Toshodaiji. Toshodaiji was founded in 759 by Ganjin, a Chinese priest who was invited to Japan by Emperor Kōnin to train priests and develop Japanese buddhism. Ganjin’s journey to Japan was not simple – he made five unsuccessful attempts before finally arriving on his sixth.
As we walked around the complex, Junko told us about the different buildings and their histories and helped us to understand the significance of the temple. During our walk Junko pointed out a mejiro in a sakura tree and we stopped so I could take a million photos.
If anyone wants a high resolution copy of these, let me know!
Junko led us to the next stop on our tour – Yakushiji. The wind picked up considerably over the course of the day and by the time we arrived at Yakushiji it was blowing a gale.
Yakushiji and Toshodaiji were so different in appearance. Toshodaiji was all raw wood and muted colours – the red, green, gold and black were all represented but not overtly. Yakushiji was quite the opposite.
We encountered a group of girls who were in training to become guides and they seemed to be in the middle of their assessment. They had a perfect uniform and were shouting over the sound of the wind to be heard.
Tim and I were gripping hands in his pocket (we had neglected to bring two pairs of gloves) while we dashed from building to building to avoid the chill.
While at Yakushiji, we had the opportunity to see some of Ikuo Hirayama‘s paintings – he made some specifically for the temple.
Having viewed both temples, it was well and truly time for lunch. Junko took us to a marvelous udon restaurant for some of the most delicious food we had while we were in Japan. As the restaurant was out between the temples without any other food around, it felt like a bit of a small town eatery. It was quiet, friendly and intimate.
To show our appreciation for her time, putting up with all of my questions and helping us have the most fabulous day, Tim gave Junko one of the bookmarks he had made, and I gave her some easter eggs from Haigh’s.
We spent the afternoon wandering around Naramachi again, where we parted with Junko and went on the hunt for strawberries and condensed milk. We went into OKest FRESH MART and struck gold! Yuzu. Cider.
We had planned a post dinner room picnic to celebrate our anniversary so we stocked up on additional supplies at the combini (so many cakes) and walked home.
Dinner was yet another masterpiece. Tim enjoyed a bit more of it this time.
And finally… Sleep.