Nara – Deer, giant Buddhas and delicious curry

Nara is one of the oldest places in Japan, and in Japan when they say old they mean old. Some of the buildings there are over a thousand years old, which considering they’re built from wood is nothing short of a miracle.

From Kyoto, Nara is a perfect day trip and it’s well worth checking out Japan’s ancient capital.

The main reason is the deer. Yes, wild deer that roam freely around the whole of Nara park as if they owned it. I was shocked as I’d read up about the deer but didn’t realise how many there would really be. They were everywhere! In greater numbers often than people and often more intimidating.

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In Nara park the deer are most certainly Japanese deer…they bow.

I quickly learned the technique, firstly you hide the full packet of crackers you bought in a bag so they can’t see it (or else you get mobbed, drop them and have to run for cover). Then break off a piece and hold it above the deer’s head. On cue here’s the bow! Then the happy little deer gets the cracker.

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This is one of the remarkable examples of the amazing relationship between people and nature in Japanese culture.

After feeding enough deer, we decided it was time to feed ourselves. In the heart of the park we had one of the best meals of the trip at Kasugano.

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We had a brilliant window seat where we could watch others feeding the deer (not very successfully).

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And then there was the food. The staff spoke no English but we managed to get by very well knowing just a few words of Japanese and using an app to sub in a few more. And this is what we had…

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The food was inexpensive and spectacular. My dish looked considerably less impressive than the bento dream but was no less delicious for it, it was a classic Japanese version of a curry. Thick, rich, slow cooked deliciousness.

In the two layered bento was a variety of treats from unusual tofus and vegetables to fish cakes and meat slices. And the soupy bonito noodles were incredible, with udon and unusual thick flat glass noodles too.

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Kasugano, while being simple food, was a little taste of heaven.

And then, no big deal we saw one of the largest Buddha statues in the world in one of the oldest buildings in the world. But I don’t have any pictures of that…just the food.

There’s a programme on BBC 1 on Japan’s relationship with nature where Nara park features heavily called ‘Japan: Earth’s enchanted Islands’ definitely worth a watch.

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