Nara is Kyoto’s slightly less flashy cousin. Nara was the capital of Japan during the (aptly named) Nara period, from A.D. 710 — 780. It’s got some fantasically old and impressive temples, and less tourists milling around than at Kyoto (though that just means merely “heaps” rather than “hordes”).
Nara also has lots of deer. The deer are used to humans, and have learned that humans tend to carry around a lot of food, or at least things that can be eaten. Like delicious cash, or hotel booking confirmations:
"Nom nom nom. May I have your train tickets for dessert?"
Deer can be very cute and innocent-looking. That’s part of what makes them so dangerous:
The real problem comes when you run out of things to feed them. At that point, the deer become very, very grumpy.
The following photo is taken a second before a small child tragically lost her hand in an unprovoked deer attack. Note the evil glint in the perpetrator’s eye:
You start off feeding one deer, and then suddenly it’s a party. And when you run out of food — no joke — they just start biting you. They can also move quite quickly, and they will follow you for a long time unless distracted by an even more tasty looking tourist (Americans proved to be good diversions).
Which is all just a round about way of explaining why Moon Tan looks happy but also slightly concerned in this photo:
Nara: fun but dangerous.
Postscript: having now also met the deer at Miyajima, near Hiroshima, I can tell you that the Miyajima deer are much better behaved. They don’t seem to have acquired a taste for human flesh. The difference seems to be that it’s forbidden to feed the Miyajima deer, so they don’t necessarily expect humans to come bearing snacks. Happily, though, they’re still willing to be patted and photographed. Win!
As Moon Tan’s last hurrah before heading back to Oz, we took a trip to Osaka and Nara. Osaka has a different feel to Tokyo. The people really do seem friendlier, and there’s a nice buzz about the place without the slightly stressed vibe of Tokyo.
This is Moon Tan out the front of the Osaka Aquarium. It lives up to the hype: it’s massive, and interesting, and there’s penguins, both real and electric.
Moon Tan loves penguins.
I love these guys. And as an added educational bonus, we learned how to tell the difference between boy stingrays and girl stingrays! (It’s not as straightforward as you’d think.)
For the life of me I cannot remember what kind of animal these guys are. I think they might come from Indonesia? Perhaps Moon Tan can enlighten us in the comments.
Did I mention that there were penguins? Luckily they were behind glass, so Moon Tan couldn’t steal one.
Okay, I have to stop myself from posting a million photos of fish. But suffice to say there’s a lot to see, and the cool thing about it is that the tanks are quite deep, and are arranged so that the path spirals down around them, so you get different perspectives on the same group of animals as you descend.
We did other stuff in Osaka (sampled some okinomiyaki and some excellent kobe beef, walked the old quarter at night), but the aquarium was probably the highlight.
Osaka: it’s okay!