Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sites : Nara Deer Park Japan

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Nara Deer Park Japan
 Nara, Japan - October 2014
On the second day of our tour of Japan, we visited the Nara Deer Park. I like this park; it's a nice forest with paths leading to temples and shrines. There are even small hillocks at one of the edges. And most attractive are the deer that live within the park.

They are very tame and come out to mingle with visitors, allowing themselves to be fed and petted.

The deer are very used to the public presence, and are very friendly, even little children can play and pet them.

And yet these docile creatures have to be protected. At various spots around the park (near the entrance points) are posted these signages of "Rules For Protecting Deer"
According to these signs, the deer have been around this park for a thousand years and for them to continue to thrive these rules should be abided:
1. Do not bring dogs or other pets into the park, these other animals may chase the deer and cause accidents to happen.
2. Do not feed the deer except with the "Shika Senbei" (deer biscuits) that are made for feeding the deer. Other food may cause the deer to fall ill.
3. No littering. Deer can and will eat rubbish and fall sick.
4. Do not hit or chase the deer. These acts are punishable under the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties. Yes, the deer are part of the historical culture of this place.

The deer crackers can be bought from vendors at the entrances to the Deer Park.

The entrance to the Nara Park looks like just a park but as one explores further inwards, the park reveals its glory and beauty.

The park is in fact a forest, officially called the Nara Park. It encompasses 60 hectares of a reserve where the deer roam freely. Within the park are several temples and shrines, the most renown of which is the Todai-ji Temple.

Below are more photos of the deer in the park:

In summer, during the afternoon, the heat gets to the deer and they take naps then.

A deer cosily snoozing away.

At an exit hillock, deer roam freely.

They graze and eat grass at the meadows.

The locals informed that the deer go up to the hills to pass the night.

Visitors, local and foreign, like to have photos taken with the deer ...

.... play and pet them ...

... or even feed them.

But do be careful though, some of the deer do become over-enthusiastic when it comes to feeding. They will nip and tug on visitors clothing.

The Deer Park is one of the must visit places in Nara; do not miss it or you will lose a beautiful chance to bond with nature.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Japan 2014 Day 1 - A Very Fishy Day

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                    Footsteps - Jotaro's Travels                        
Japan 2014 Day 1 - A Very Fishy Day
22nd October 2014
This is a trip we are much looking forward to.
After months of planning and research, we are going again to Japan. We had previously had a good, free & easy trip there (... see Japan 2012 blog). Having enjoyed the Japanese culture and sceneries then, we made up our minds that we must go again.
So here we are, this time with another couple (Adele & Ken) making ours a six-person mini tour group - the rest were Marina, Cheong, Lynne & me.

Okay, okay.... first a confession.... before I get my head whack by the ladies. It was the ladies who did the planning, bookings and research; we guys just followed and enjoyed ourselves; and hopefully we did make our companionship for the ladies (our wives actually)  worthwhile.

This is page 1 of a 6-page blog, on our Day 1 fishy tour of Osaka.
Click below to go to other pages :
 - Japan 2014 Day 2 : (coming soon)
- Japan 2014 Day 3 : (coming soon)
- Japan 2014 Day 4 : (coming soon)
- Japan 2014 Day 5 : (coming soon)
- Japan 2014 Day 6 : (coming soon)

We took Air Asia Flight D7532 leaving KLIA2 at 1:00 am in the morning (Malaysian Time) and after a 6-1/2 hours flight we arrived at Kansai Airport at 8:25 am (Japan Time).
With our new Malaysian Passports, there was no need to apply for Japan visas. Although the Immigration officers were efficient, there was a large crowd and the wait for our turn was long - so a point to note, go to the rest rooms before queueing up!
First thing first... after clearing Immigration & Customs - go to the post office located at the 2nd floor of South Wing of the airport.
Huh? What? Sending postcards even before we start our tour? Isn't that being a bit too enthusiastic?

No, we were there to pick up a mobile wi-fi router Japan Wireless. This is one thing that's worthwhile to get while travelling in Japan, with it one can have Wi-Fi all the time. And it's priced reasonably too, for rental for six days use it was 5750 Yen (including 500 yen for insurance), working out to 160 Yen for each of us per day!
You can pre-order this while still at your home country or anywhere else out of Japan and pick it up when arriving. We went for the high-speed 76 Mbps with a 3G memory usage as we thought speed was more important than amount of memory. After all we will have resident W-Fi at the hotels we stay in. It worked pretty well for us and has a range of up till 30 metres; that is to say one must stay in range of the person carrying the unit.

The next stop was still at the airport - the Japan Railway (JR) office at the same floor (on the other end). Here we picked up our ICOCA card and exchanged our pre-ordered  JR Passes for the tickets.
The ICOCA card is a debit card for travelling within the Osaka local rail lines and the JR Pass for outwards to other cities. The JR Sanyo Area Pass we got was for four days and only covered the Sanyo Area which we will be visiting later. As we will be in Osaka for two days, we only activated the JR Pass when we left for Miyajima.

 Taking the Nankai Airport Express and alighting at the Osaka-Namba station, we took a short ten minutes walk to our hotel. Yes, we will be staying at the Dotonbori Hotel again as it is  conveniently located at the active Osaka's Dotonbori area. This time though we paid slightly more for the larger rooms.

Checked in time was at 3.00 pm, so leaving our luggage there and doing a bit of nose picking (Eeeewwww!), we were ready to go to the MARKET!

Yes, we will be going to the market but we will not be doing any real marketing. Our time here in Japan is too short for us to spend time on cooking.
From the hotel, we took a leisurely twenty minutes walk over the Kuromon Ichiba Market. The skies were full of dark clouds, but we were not worried - the market has covered walkways.

There were fruits and vegetable stalls. As in most Japanese markets, the produce are neatly packed at a prep room behind, thus making the streets of the market clean and dry.

As Osaka is a port city, there were many fish stalls around...

... and even stalls selling electric appliances and what-nots.

The market consists of a few lanes and there were many interesting things on sale; from these giant asparagus...

... to these huge fist-size cockles!

To these large, fat, poisonous Fugu (puffer fish); which are a risky Japanese delicacy.
As we approached, the monger started cutting up the fish but when we got closer he stopped. I had always wanted to see how they cut the fish and remove the poison; perhaps he was protecting a trade secret OR maybe he had to leave it to a certified skilled chef to do the cutting.

GOODY! It's Lunch Time; time for some real Japanese eats!
We were spoilt for choices here; a few of the lanes were lined with foodie shops, selling all kinds of different eats.
Somehow, we ended up at Nikudozan. It's a stall that sells barbecue Wagyu Beef.
Wagyu! That must be what attracted us here in the first place.

This place serves beef for us to barbecue ourselves. Lady Luck must be smiling at us when we chose this place. The Wagyu they served here was the best I have tasted! They were soft, tender and juicy; with each bite they melted in our mouths.

To top our lunch we had this beautiful piece of top-side Kuroge Wagyu Beef. A cut that had  a good balance of lean and fats. It was buttered up with some Miso Sauce seasoning and garnished with spring onions and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. It looked deliciously appetizing even before it was cooked.
Not wanting to take any risks of cooking this the wrong way, we left it to the experts (one of the waiters) to do the grilling for us. He did it superbly, cooking it nicely and snipping off pieces to serve us.

With the beef we had those short, stubby Japanese Rice. I ate the beef by itself, letting the juices flow down to the rice before eating the rice.

We finished of our meal with these nice Strawberry Freeze Ice-cream, it consisted of frozen strawberries cupped with vanilla freezy - nice tasting and not overly sweet. Pricing was reasonable too, working out to about 1,000 Yen per head.
To read more of this fantastically delicious meal, click here.

The Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium building.
Nicely sated, we popped into the train at the Namba Station (smirkingly flashing our new ICOCA Rail  Card) and headed for the Osaka-ko Station. From there we took a twenty minutes walk to the Osaka Kayukan Aquarium.
With twenty-seven tanks in 16 main exhibits & a total volume of 10,941 tons of water, the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is one of the largest in the world. The walk-through aquarium displays marine life from several habitats of the Ring of Fire area of the Pacific Ocean.
Entry tickets for adults are at 2,300 Yen.

And this aquarium has one of the best petting sections. In a large tank filled with shallow water are large sting rays that are so friendly that they approach visitors, seeking to be petted. There are even small sharks (dog-fish) that can be petted. These are so tame that even children can play with them.

In another large enclosure, Northern Rockhopper Penguins can be seen waddling about like Charlie Chaplin in one of his silent movies. Every once in a while a male sang a shrieking song to attract females.

The huge Giant Tank (which is 9 metres deep and holds 5,400 cubic metres of water) displayed a variety of fish including manta rays and a whale shark, A large Whale Shark glides by, oblivious to us tiny human beings...

In another corner of the Tank, a Manta Ray quietly sails by; at about two metres length, this one is a smaller one looking less threatening than its' cousins found in the depths of the Pacific. It's a young one that has not turned a black shade and it's horns, that give this vampire looking fish the nick-name "Devil Fish", has yet to sprout.

In other sections of the aquarium:
A ferocious looking giant Alaskan King Crab, looking like something out of this world, looking like something from the movie Aliens.

A mother dolphin and her infant swam by like ballerinas in a dance, twisting and turning gracefully.

Elsewhere, a Moray Eel lurks at the bottom, getting ready to pounce upon...

... on these colourful coral fishes.

Jellyfishes were aplenty, and until now I did not realize how colourful and pretty they can be until I saw the many on display here:

Beautiful aren't they; but don't forget their sting can be painful and deadly.

We are at the end of our aquarium tour after 3-1/2 hours; here there was a model exhibit of a Narwhal Whale. These unicorns of the sea are large elegant creatures, and I doubt if there is any in captivity, but then it would be just terrible to keep these very active mammals locked up.
We were here a while but I would have love to stay longer, as so many of the exhibits we just had had a glance.

It was just past six when we exited, by then night has set in and the nearby Tempozan Ferris Wheel (the largest in the world) was exuding a greenish alien hue.

A jump of joy by the girls for an enjoyable first day.

Back at Dotonbori, it's to our favourite ramen shop, Satsumakko...

... where we had this Tonkotsu Ramen. It was still delicious but a wee bit salty, so a tip here -  add some hot water into the soup to dilute it a bit; and don't forget to add more chopped garlic to give that burning kick and "to keep those vampires Manta Rays away"!

It had been a rewarding busy day with good food and lots of fishes.
(That's Japanese for "Guddonaito", you get what I mean :) )

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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / Footsteps / Japan 2014 / Day 1 -  A Very Fishy Day     | Go to Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5 / Day 6
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