A Day Trip In Nara

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The march to Kasuga-Taisha Shrine begins! Going here during oshogatsu means being prepared for crowds.
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Nearing the entrance after almost 30 minutes of lining up! Best to grab some snacks and drinks from the stalls nearby prior to queuing.
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Finally made it to the main temple! It is customary for believers of the Shinto religion to do the ff: 1.) Toss a 5 yen coin 2.) Clap 2 times  3.) Bow Make a Wish  4.)  Bow again |  According to locals, this is a humble gesture for those requesting for good fortune in the new year.
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Countless lanterns fence the entire shrine.

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My friend’s stamp book! I think she has now already collected around 20 stamps from different temples all over Japan.
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Prayers are being hung on this old tree.

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There would not be a Nara without its deer! From Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, retrace your steps back to the main avenue and make a hard right towards Wakakusaya Hill. The wheat-colored hill will serve as your landmark.
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Kawaii!
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After a pleasant stroll, you will end up at Nigatsu-do. It is quite an amazing structure and offers great panoramic views at the top. Entrance is free.

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View at the top!
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For nature lovers, Nara offers a hiking trail not known to many tourists and locals. The name is Kasugayama Mountain Trail. It is quite tricky to get here but coming from Wakakusaya Hill, retrace your steps to the main avenue and check the signs. It should be about 400m down a different path from the main avenue.
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The hike is a moderate one and is about 3kms. long. It should take about 1.5 hours going up and down, depending on how long you stay at the top.
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We made it!
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On the way back to the JR station, you can pass by Todaiji temple. This is one of the biggest temples I have ever seen and is found among other great temples as well. The sad part was it closes at 5PM so we were not able to see the Great Buddha inside.
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Looks bigger than it seems. The two gold horns at the back are actually from another bigger temple inside!

For the last part of oshogatsu (winter break), me and my friends decided to head on to nearby Nara.  Nara is most popularly known in Japan for its free-roaming deer but the city also has a rich past.  It is the first imperial capital of Japan and was established around 710.  You can easily compare and contrast the shrines and structures here with those in other parts of Japan.

The city is small and easy to navigate for a day trip.  From Kyoto, you can take the JR Nara line for 710 yen one way.  The train ride is about 55 minutes long via the rapid train and about 1.2 hours via the local train.  Getting around is best done on foot.  For those who are in a rush, you can take the “Gurutto” bus (color red) which goes around the major tourist attractions for 100 yen per trip.

Hatsumode in Inari

Happy New Year everyone!

If you have ever dreamed about what it feels like to be in Memoirs of a Geisha and Rurouni Kenshin, then this is the shrine to go.  It is considered as one of the big 3 shrines in Japan, alongside Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine and Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Taisha.

Any trip to Japan would largely be trivial without visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine (and Kyoto!).  There is just nothing in the world like it.

Here’s how hatsumode (first Shinto shrine visit of the year) is done in Kyoto!

 

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January 1st is chaotic in Inari. Security and traffic were very efficient though. Inari can be accessed via the Nara line from JR Kyoto Station and costs 140 yen one way.  Entrance to the shrine is free.
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After 15 minutes, we reached the first torii gate. Whew.
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Entrance to the main temple grounds. I tried my best to minimize the heads.
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Traffic gets even worse inside. And this was at 1:30PM! If you want to ring the bells and offer prayers, best to go really early.
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The vermillion journey begins! Arm yourself with some trusty shoes and dress in layers. The weather during this time might be cold, but you are surely going to sweat buckets on the way up.
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FYI: According to one of the signs, 10 torii gates amounts to a donation of around 1.3M yen!
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Just do the math!
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There were Chinese hoisted messages on this torii according to my friend. We’re not sure how it got there,
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A place to offer candles and prayers.
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More steps! I lost count after 10.
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Miniature versions are studded all over the shrine and mark people who passed on.

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The way down is even more fascinating as you get to see the names of the people and companies who donated these.
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Top!
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The line was too long. But still worth it!
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View of Uji from above!

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Happy 2016 from Kyoto!