April in Japan – The Joy of Walking in Slippers for 5 Hours

0310 + 0502 = 0402 Nara

This is a blog post about our day on 2 April in Nara, written on 10 March and 2 May (before and after the trip). 10 March is in black. 2 May is in red italic.

It’s 10th of March today. My mind is on Nara and Uji. Hopefully our third day will be slow and relaxing in Nara. Nara is one of the old capitals of Japan. But since I don’t know much about Japanese history, I won’t say more than that.

April in Japan - The Joy of Walking in Slippers for 5 Hours

The highlight of the day is that I’m going to try on a kimono outfit (including a pair of Japanese slippers) and walk around Nara in it for a whole day! I made an appointment with a kimono rental shop already.

The missing luggage was still missing. I was so annoyed with the fact that I had to go for my once in a life time kimono experience without any makeup or contact lenses! I was so upset that I took Andy straight to the wrong train station and ended up nearly missing our train to Nara, risking being late for the appointment. But we caught the right train. The weather cleared up and the temperature rose to 20 degrees. Andy even had sunburn at the end of the day. So I cheered up.

I didn’t choose to have my kimono experience in Nara. I made the decision because I chose not to have it in Kyoto. The reason is, there are TOO many things I want to see and do in Kyoto, I can’t afford to move around slowly in small steps. Apart from Kyoto, which is the most popular place for kimono experience, Nara is the obvious choice. Osaka is  not particularly old and pretty (Osaka was pretty alright!). The rest of our journey involves too much travelling. There are two or three shops available in Nara with small collections of kimonos. I’m quite tall, so I fully expect a very narrow range to choose from. In comparison, there are countless shops in Kyoto with collections of 500 or even more options. So I’m looking forward to getting changed in Nara but at the same time not over excited about it. I won’t expect too much and hopefully get pleasantly surprised.

The old gentleman greeted me in the kimono rental shop spoke Japanese only. I was very proud of being able to make myself understood that I had an appointment (by saying “11am”). Then he said a few more things which I quickly answered with “yes, yes”. That’s how I survived the first few months in the UK. It worked fine.

The shop was made up of three parts – an actual shop, an area with kimonos hanging, and a changing area. It was a squash and a squeeze. The choice of kimono was limited but a lot better than I imagined. I picked a dark blue one pretty quickly and despite the appointment I made weeks in advance, I had to wait about an hour for my turn. 

Then I was transformed. Andy came back from his wander and collected a new wife.

April in Japan - The Joy of Walking in Slippers for 5 Hours

There is a nice and simple route to see most of the touristy temples and gardens in the Lonely Planet book. We might just follow that.

Nara was a lovely place. It was my favourite day of the whole journey. It was warm and clear. Many couples were having their wedding photos taken that day, interestingly all in western style wedding outfits.

April in Japan

I got used to walking in slippers pretty quick. We walked from JR Nara Station along one of the main streets, passed Kofukuji Temple (under construction cover), Himuro Jinja Shrine, under Nandaimon Gate, and arrived at Isuien Garden. Apart from a cherry blossom ice cream (tasted almond), I don’t have any memory of having lunch. The belt was tight, but not so tight that I couldn’t breathe, but tight enough that I didn’t feel hungry.

April in Japan - The Joy of Walking in Slippers for 5 Hours

A smiley cleaning lady stopped sweeping the already very clean floor and said “pretty” to me.

Todaiji Temple was full of people. We only had a glimpse of the Temple through the gate. After a few days when we were in Kyoto, there was a news about a few places in Nara were damaged on purpose. I hope they are able to fix them.

Deers roamed freely in this city. We didn’t buy any deer biscuits. I didn’t particularly want to get licked. But a couple of them came near to us. Look at their lovely big eyes! One of them nearly pushed Andy over and stole his ice cream. (Andy told him off. I wondered if he understood English…)

April in Japan - The Joy of Walking in Slippers for 5 Hours

April in Japan

Worrying about our luggage, we got down hill and back to the centre early to look for a phone booth to call the airport. As a result, we had to miss Kasuga Taisha Shrine. The good news was our luggage was found and finally on the way to our hotel. Leaving Nara Park and crowds of tourists behind, we wandered around in Nara’s old district for a bit longer:

April in Japan - The Joy of Walking in Slippers for 5 Hours

April in Japan - The Joy of Walking in Slippers for 5 Hours

Sorry that all the photos today have me in it. I didn’t carry my camera that day. All photos were taken by my husband. Only when I started sorting the photos that I noticed there weren’t many photos without me in…

Changing back to my normal clothes, I walked in big steps to stretch my legs. It was amazing I wasn’t exhausted. The wide and tight belt kind of supported my back in a comfortable way.

We had our first and only eel meal. It was expensive. But eel should not be missed.

April in Japan - The Joy of Walking in Slippers for 5 Hours

Before sunset, we’ll take a train north to Uji. Uji is a suburb of Kyoto. It makes better sense to visit Uji from Kyoto. But again, there are TOO many things to see in Kyoto. If I leave Uji till when we’re in Kyoto, we’ll never see it. It’s not the end of the world missing Uji. But I’d like to try the famous green tea matcha where it’s from, in a small old tea room, seeing the night quietly falling onto the street.

The darkness had completely covered the whole Uji when we arrived. Two famous matcha tea and dessert places were both closed. We opened our eyes wide, looking very hard to see the river and cherry blossom along both banks, but could see nothing. Wind was making a ghosty whistle when we crossed the bridge. In the end, the only place we visited was a supermarket…

Then we’ll take the train back to Osaka and do more eating and shopping! Osaka is really a good base for good food, easy transport and day trips.

Our total walking mileage of the day was 8 miles. #Walk1000Miles

The following morning we would be leaving for the second city, Kanazawa.

 

 

All photos by Andy.

 

 

 

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4 Comments

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  1. Loving that dark kimono!

  2. Love your photos! This just makes me want to travel to Japan even more!

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