Monday, May 09, 2016

Japan 2016: Nara

We grabbed a bus to Kyoto Station and then went in to buy tickets for the express train. To my dismay, the primary ticket machines were incomprehensible, so we went into the service counter to line up. At the last minute, I saw that there was a JR Rail machine, and tried to use my American credit card to buy a ticket to Nara. That worked great, and we were soon on the express train to Nara. Once there, Google projected an 8 minute walk to the hotel, but biff'd on finding the entrance. Luckily, the entrance wasn't that far. It was too early to checkin but we could leave our luggage at the hotel.
From Japan 2016
Xiaoqin wanted to come to Nara to see Daibutsu, so we walked through the city's parks to the information center, and were then directed along a route that took in more temples, and some reindeer!
From Japan 2016
From Japan 2016
The temple was very crowded, with hordes of school children, bus loads full of tourists, and tour guides armed with megaphones for both crowds. We walked in slowly and gaped at the huge Buddha statue and various accompaniments before leaving to get ice cream in the heat.
From Japan 2016
After that, everyone else was too exhausted to do more walking, so I set off by myself to explore Nara. My first stop was the Kintetsu station, which was not the same as the JR Nara station. It turned out that in this part of Japan there were two major rail networks with their own stations! I wanted the bullet train from Kyoto, but the Kintetsu station was closer to our hotel, so I had to confirm that (1) yes, I had to buy my tickets from two different companies, and that (2) the 14 minute connection was realistic at Kyoto, because the Kintetsu and JR Shinkansen lines shared a common terminal separated only by a 3 minute walk. Since the Shinkansen ticket was by far the most expensive one, I then walked over to the JR Rail HQ and stood inline for multiple minutes so I could buy reserved seats that would take us to the Studio Ghibli museum on Friday. Along the way, I found a mechanical toy museum, but it was closed on Wednesday.

It rained the next day, but first we had to find more diapers for Boen. This proved to be a surprisingly difficult task, and I eventually enlisted the help of the tourist information counter at the Kintetsu train station. She walked us through 2 more drug stores before finding one! If we'd been searching for adult diapers, it would have been no problem: those were on sale everywhere! I then bought tickets for the Kintetsu rail portion of the next day's trip, and took Bowen to the mechanical toy museum in Nara.
What a great museum that was. It was fully curated, but you were allowed to play with the toys as much as you like. The tops were a lot of fun, and there was even a mini kabuki show/demonstration. Highly recommended even if you don't have kids --- in fact, I was the only person there with a child accomplice!

The day turned out to be a nice quiet day for us because of the rain. We didn't see any sights, but got to live like a local, exploring the local shopping streets, buying take out food, and in general chilling out. This was great, since the next day was an early start, as we had Studio Ghibli tickets for a 12:00pm entry in Tokyo.
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