On our 2nd full day in Kyoto, it was Monday, February 6, which meant it was Superbowl 51 time! So I set my alarm and got up early so I could head down to go watch the game at Man in the Moon at Kyoto Station. I ended up seeing this great couple Paige and I had met Saturday night, who recently moved to Japan, and got to enjoy watching the game with them. I enjoyed a nice breakfast of fish n chips, a Guinness, Irish coffee, and a hangover shot to wash it all down (yes, Japan sells hangover shots - this have been put to good use by Nate and I). Paige was finally able to drag her butt out of bed and join me once the game was in overtime :)
While enjoying the game, I met another group of travelers who were also heading to Nara for the day, so we decided to team up and go exploring together! #lovenewfriendsmetinbars
After our little group bought some snacks and chu-hi to enjoy on the 30 minute train ride over to Nara, we headed out. Our crew consisted of Rachel and Matt, who were married. They saved up and were enjoying a honeymoon traveling around the world for a whole year! #jealous #awesome Two of their friends from college, Brian and Kevin, met up with them for their Japan leg. Everyone was so nice and I was excited to have some fun people to explore Nara with. :)
Nara used to be the first permanent capital of Japan way back in the day. Today it's main sites are Nara-koen (Nara Park), filled with over 1200 deer. In Buddhist times, deer were considered messengers of gods, so today they enjoy the status of National Treasures. To feed these aggressive guys, you can purchase deer biscuits for 150 yen. The deer here are extra special because most will bow to you before you feed them #onlyinjapan #respectfuldeer Me being a lover of animals, I was excited to interact and feed these little guys.
Watch the impatient deer half ass bow to me below before I feed them:
After walking through the park, we came upon the main gate for the Todai-ji Temple, Nandai-mon. This gate contains two large, fierce looking Nio guardians. These wooden guardians were carved in the 13th century by the sculptor, Unkei. These dramatic works of art are some of best wooden statues in Japan, and in the world. #fierce
Todaiji (東大寺, Tōdaiji, "Great Eastern Temple") is one of Japan's most famous and historically significant temples. It was constructed in 752 as the head temple of all Buddhist temples in Japan. This led the capital being moved from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 to lower the temple's influence on government affairs.
The main hall in the temple complex, Daibutsuden, the world's largest wooden building, houses Japan's largest bronze statue of Buddha (Daibutsu). It sits at 15 meters (49 ft) tall. When the Buddha was originally built, it was cast in gold leaf (I bet that was a site). The way the Buddha is holding it's hands is to send the message of "fear not" and "welcome". There are 16 smaller Buddhas arranged as a halo around the Daibutsu's head. Each one symbolizes one of the Daibutsu's different manifestations. They way they are built and arranged is to appear as the same size when viewed from the ground.
Seated on either side of the Daibutsu is a Bodhisattvas, a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so out of compassion in order to save suffering beings. On the right side sits Nyoirin Kannon, a bodhisattva that presides over the 6 different realms of karmic rebirth. On the left sits Kokuzo Bosatsu, the bodhisattva of memory and wisdom. Students will pray to Kokuzo for help in their studies and the faithful will pray to help on their path to enlightenment.
There's also a hole in a pillar near Tamonten that is 50 cm (1.6 ft) wide, the same width as the nostril on the Daibutsu. It is said that if you can crawl through this, you are assured of enlightenment. Unfortunately, we got to the temple about 5 minutes before it closed so we were a bit rushed going through. It would have been fun to see if we could fit though!
Behind the Daibutsu (Buddha) also stands 2 elaborate statues, Komokuten and Tamonten. Tamonten (to the right), Lord who hears all, one of Buddha's guardians. He holds a pagoda, which is believed to represent a divine storehouse of wisdom. On the left stands Komokuten, Lord of Limitless Vision, who also stands as a guardian of the Buddha. He stands on top of a demon, which symbolizes ignorance, and wields a brush and a scroll - symbolizing wisdom.
We worked up quite an appetite walking around Nara and our new friends had a great recommendation, Maguro Koya. This restaurant serves a variety of fresh tuna dishes. We walked in and right away, the couple who owns the place was standing there, and looked exactly like the picture posted on google maps! #doubletake #realadvertising
I got a double layered tuna rice bowl and it was fantastic. Washed it down with a beer and I was in heaven. #mmm #ilovefreshtuna #andbeer
We purchased some more chu-hi and headed back to Kyoto on the train (helped keep a nice day buzz going all day haha - superbowl in the morning is no bueno).
No one in the group had yet to experience the magic of Japanese karaoke. I made it my mission to help make sure they got to try this before they left because.... IT'S AWESOME! We found a super karaoke spot with 6-7 floors of private rooms where we could sing our hearts out. For around $25 each, we got to sing and drink as much as we wanted for 2 hours. All you can drink you say?? I think we took this literally. Right away they gave us little shot drinks with music on the label - we had no idea what these were but we figured they would help us sing - maybe relax the vocal chords? #letshopeso #ineedallthehelpicanget
Paige's backpacking friends got to Kyoto that night and were able to meet up with us at the karaoke spot. Carly informed me on the phone when I gave her directions that she does not sing karaoke but was more than happy to watch #yearight I gave her about 5-10 minutes top until she jumped right in and sure enough - her and Chris joined the rest of us in singing their hearts out. We were having so much fun that we extended for another 2 hours, making us rent the room for 4 hours total. That meant an additional 2 hours of picking up the phone and ordering round after round of beer #uhoh #funnight
Watch videos below of our ridiculousness. Brian and Kevin cracked us all up by singing (or more like talking) the words of songs in a monotone Eastern European accent (see the first two videos for examples of Brian's beautiful accented voice). And we graced our karaoke floor of renditions of Korn songs as well, and one of my personal favorites Bohemian Rhapsody. Our room was having so much fun singing and were so loud, that when you left our room to walk down the hall to the bathroom, and went into one of the stalls, YOU COULD STILL HEAR US. That's how loud we were lol #sorrynotsorry We also got multiple looks from people walking by our room - giving quizzical looks into the door window #youknowyouwanttojoin
To this day, this was still one of my top, most fun karaoke experiences - thank you to all who helped make that happen, and providing me memories that still make me chuckle. #cheers
And to those that are wondering, after 4 hours of all you can drink, the answer is yes, Paige and I did stop by McDonalds on our way back to our guesthouse, and split a delicious, greasy egg cheeseburger on our hostel bunk bed. #nojudgment #friendswhoeatmcdonaldstogetherstaytogether
Follow in our Footsteps:
Nara is easily accessible from Kyoto or Nara by train (around a 30-40 minute ride)
Japan, 〒630-8211 Nara Prefecture, Nara, Zoshicho, ４０６−１
Hours: 8am - 4:30 (Nov - Feb); 8am - 5pm (Mar); 7:30am - 5:30pm (Apr - Sep); 7:30am - 5pm (Oct)
Fee: 500 yen
Japan, 〒630-8266 Nara Prefecture, Nara, 花芝町６−６
Hours: 10am - 10pm
スーパージャンカラ河原町本店 (Karaoke) (quite a few located in this area but I think this was the one we were at)
Japan, 〒604-8033 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Narayachō, 河原町蛸薬師上る3丁目奈良屋町296
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!