Here’s your travel starter for 10
Are you a fan of a travel quiz? I am. I cannot get enough of them.
Here’s a question for you readers out there. What is the capital of Japan? Too easy? Alright then, try this one instead. What was the capital of Japan from 710AD TO 784AD? Now I’ve got you stumped haven’t I. If I haven’t got you stumped and you knew it was Nara then please imagine me wearing a hat. And then continue imagining while I take said hat off to you. You’re much cleverer than I am! This question came up in a quiz I was at this week and needless to say nobody in my team had a clue. We hadn’t even heard of Nara. I Googled it (after the quiz had finished, no Googling allowed during proceedings) and when I saw what the answer to question seven was all about I wanted to kiss the quiz master. Without him I might never have known about this ridiculously pleasant place. It’s got a period named after it (the Nara period naturally) and if you are ever lucky enough to go you’ll be able to see temples from way back then. I feel like ‘way back’ doesn’t really cover how waaaaaaaaaaay back we’re talking about. This was 300 years before Harold got an arrow in the eye and more than a thousand years before George Washington became the first president of the United States.
I had planned on going to Kyoto next time I go to Japan but thanks to this revelation I’m considering skipping it altogether so that I can spend lots of time in Nara. From what I’ve read so far it appears that this little part of the country is more authentic, less busy, and further off the beaten path than the famous Kyoto. First stop after checking in at my hotel, if and when I get there, will be the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) which lives in a huge temple and looks down over a peach of a park. Peaceful, green and home to tame deer this particular park. So tame are the deer in fact that, unlike the ones I try to get close to in Richmond Park in west London who appear to think of me as a threat akin to a pack of hungry lions, these ones will eat from your hand. Remind me to do some research into what they eat please so that I can make sure I have plenty of it. Because it was Japan’s capital city in the 8th century Nara has some of the country’s oldest and largest Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. It’s no surprise the place is littered with sites that have been bestowed the World Heritage thumbs up like the Todai-ji and Horyu-ji temples. Eating and drinking will be key in this part of the world too. And I don’t know if I’m more excited about the prospect of old school thatched teahouses or a bit of Japanese fine dining. Or perhaps I’m most excited about trying out the renowned French restaurant at Noborioji Hotel. I just can’t choose which has me most enthused I’m afraid – gaging my own excitement levels has always been a weak point. Everything is very very exciting indeed. I’ll be sleeping at Noborioji Hotel too. Wooden interiors coupled with large windows and a prime position at the foot of Kotuku-Ji temple make this place an easy selection. The only question now is when to go. Spring I think… so I can combine these temple treasures with a little cherry blossom action.
Have any of you been to Nara before? I’d love your top tips if you have!
See you next week.