Touring Japan was an amazingly refreshing experience. I will post a series of blogs, to cover different regions of Japan or different experiences I had in Japan. This blog is on our time in Nara. Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture, in Kansai region of Japan.
As the plane was landing into Osaka, I looked down at the ocean and the scene with multiple ships similar gray looking ships (with only variation in sizes), looked almost exactly like the board of the game “Battleship”. I felt a bit emotional thinking about my father going to Japan, almost 45 or so years ago. He established great collaborations, with sole agency to sell Toshiba and National electronic products in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa, a business that brought much prosperity for the family, in years to come.
Landed into Osaka airport and took airport bus to Nara where Barbara’s husband Iishu picked us up. They live in Byakugo-Ji, a small little village, in Nara. While Barbara, Piper and I went for a walk around the village, Iishu set the table and put finishing touches on the dinner. This place, a little eco habitat as Barabra calls it, is teaming with wild life. We had to ask Iishu to identify multiple sounds, at different hours in the day. The crows were the most vocal, noisy and as Barbara explained, most intrusive. Garbage had to be left outside in little netted boxes to prohibit crows from picking apart garbage bags and making a mess. Then there were certain types of cicadas that were buzzing till late in the night. The morning came alive by 4 am with sounds from sparrows, various birds and of course the crows. The village is dotted with gorgeous little houses. Daily I was the first one to get up and I went for a lovely walk and often saw older Japanese women tending to their gardens with great care.
Iishu-San had prepared a lavish dinner with a some completely vegetarian items. The table was beautifully set with rice served in the bowl with delicious little plum pickle in the middle to represent the Japanese flag. We discussed itinerary and made calls and plans.
Next day, Barbara, Piper and I went to see the Big Buddha in Nara. There we wrote a message on a tile and donated it to the temple, for the roof. Barbara asked me to write something in gujarati and I wrote Aum Shanti. We then walked around, took pictures with the deer, one of them came and licked me. Deer in Japan don’t run away. In fact at Miyajima, one of them put his head into my bag that I had left on the ground and I chased him and picked up the bag so the deer kept following me. Then I became the one being chased, I was scared and started running away from the deer.
Barbara, Piper and I went to a beautiful garden and walked around and took pictures. Then we went to a tiny Japanese restaurant and had cold udon noodles. Barabra explained in detail that I did not eat any kind of meat, including dashi (fish sause) which is ubiquitous in almost all Japanese cooking; and they were very gracious in accommodating our needs.
We shopped for groceries and got home and I cooked Indian dinner; Chole to serve with nan, pavbhaji to serve with bread, and eggplant pulao, and bundi raita. They enjoyed the dinner immensely.
We stayed a few days in Nara. Our hosts were extremely gracious. One day, after dinner, we got a special “show and tell” from Iishu-san. Iishu happens to be an artist and a phenomenal story-teller. From his childhood memories, he has made several small paintings and has special stories to go with them. He showed us the paintings and regaled us with stories, which were not only entertaining, but gave a deep insight into olden (pre-internet) days, into Japanese culture, and into his own life.
One highlight was a rainy day when several friends visited us. We walked around Nara, did window shopping, shared umbrellas, found vegetarian food, and later had coffee in a beautiful cafe. One day, our host, Iishu-San took us to a temple of new Shinto order and we sat there, enjoying the rhythmic sound and ritual of the prayers.