Nara: Rain and Wandering

So, after two days, we’ve decided we really like Nara. It’s a small town, with a lot of history, good restaurants, and wonderful roads to wander. 

That’s pretty much what we did today.

Even the sewer covers are festooned with deer!

Our first real stop was lunch, at a place called Edogawa Grilled Eel.

As in many Japanese restaurants, you are expected to take off your shoes in the restaurant’s vestibule. They give you slippers o wear in the hallway, which you then slip off before you go into your dining room, which has a tatami mat floor. You also wear these shoes when you go to the toilet, but you take them off before actually going inside the bathroom, where you change into toilet shoes. We’ve gotten pretty good at taking our shoes on and off!

Edogawa had recessed floors under their tables, which was dry comfortable, and heated mats for your feet!

We started with an order of fried eel bones. I called them “eel French fries” to see if Ami might give them a try, and she did! Crunchy and salty, these would definitely make a good beer snack.

They had an amazing children’s meal, too, and the best chawanmushi (steamed savory egg custard) I’ve ever had. The children’s meal included rice, two fried shrimp, potato wedges, a small hamburger patty topped with cheese, a salad, oranges, and a glass of orange juice.

Put your slippers back on, it’s time to leave!

We then walked into Naramachi, a preserved district of merchant’s houses. The streets are very narrow and still used for vehicular traffic, which was a little nerve wracking with the toddler.

We stopped into a preserved house and poked around in some shops, buying a few souvenirs and gifts.

One shop was particularly interesting! It sold a variety of local foods and treats, including these juices we bought – one from Nara oranges, and one from plums. Ami immediately claimed the purple one. (Her love of pink has really blossomed lately. I’m not sure where that came from!)

The forecast called for rain, and we were lucky until midafternoon, when the very light drizzle got a bit heavier. Luckily, it was time for matcha tea and a sweet, so we stopped at Yanagi-Chaya, which has a lovely location overlooking Sarusawa-Ike pond. We even scored a table next to the window!

Logan and I enjoyed a bowl of matcha (ground green tea) with sweets made from bracken root covered with brown sugar syrup and toasted soybean flour. Ami had the same toppings, on a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

After our break, we scuttled to a nearby corner store to buy two umbrellas, then we walked to a sake brewery Logan really wanted to try. For 500 yen, we could sample 6 of Harushika’s sakes, along with three kinds of narazuke, Nara’s namesake pickle made of vegetables soaked in sake lees.

The sakes were good, but quite a bit sweeter than the extra-dry variety we’ve found we like. Ami, surprisingly, LOVED one of their pickles – squash smoked over cherrywood before pickling! We bought a couple of pouches to bring home.

They had deer antlers for Ami to try on, too…

After sake, we hoisted up our umbrellas and toddler-carriers (the Boba Air has been getting a lot of use on this trip – now it would be nice if Ami would let Logan wear her sometimes) to stroll to dinner. It was really too bad the weather wasn’t nicer; the rain continued and the temperature was dropping. We did wander into a lovely temple as well as stumble across a cemetery.

Logan found a terrific casual restaurant for dinner. ゆき亭 (Yuki Tei) is a friendly little place that does a really special omurice (omelette over chicken rice) and a hearty dinner set with tonkatsu, fish katsu, fried shrimp, and hamburger curry. 

And they were SO nice. After my beer spilled all over my omurice while we were trying to shift the table closer to Ami, they made me an entirely new entree without me asking, and then wouldn’t let us pay for it. Much appreciated!

Ami is working on her owl face.

Dinner and sightseeing achieved, we made our way back to our airbnb in the chilly drizzle. Ami can sort of hold an umbrella, a little.

And that marks the end of our two days in Nara! Tomorrow, we travel to Takayama, a town up in the mountains that apparently got two inches of snow today. We have a couple of tight connections between trains, so wish us luck!

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