I had time to kill and a JR Pass to make efficient use of, so I decided to leave Kyoto and explore a neighbouring city for the day. Walking towards Kyoto Station, I didn’t know where I wanted to go; it was only until I arrived at the train platform that I spontaneously chose Nara. And who knew a wild adventure was awaiting me? No one. Except that one deer, apparently.
If you visit Nara, chances are, Nara Park is one of the sites that you’d want to visit — and for good reason: You get to feed the deer! I admit that this weighed heavily on my spur-of-the-moment decision to venture here. After all, the deer are cute and uber friendly. (So it goes.)
“It’s not every day that I get a chance to feed deer in Japan, so I might as well buy deer biscuits and do some good in my life,” I rationalized when I saw a stand selling deer biscuits for 150 Yen at the crosswalk. Little did I know, I was inviting trouble for myself.
Walking off with a package of biscuits in hand, I found my first pal, a seemingly well-mannered and friendly deer. At first it nodded and bowed its head in compliance, but soon it grew impatient and demanded all the biscuits I had in my hands, plus my clothes and pretty much everything in existence I had on me. Tugging at my shirt repeatedly, its teeth grinded into the skin of my abdomen. (I still have scar marks. Not sure if I’ll die from infections, but hey, at least I got some vaccines.)
I thought one was bad. Then came a second one. “Aw, shit,” I thought. To get Clyde off of me, plus its partner in crime, Bonnie, I did what any sane person would do: feed it my pamphlets and jet. If you have deer climbing you like a tree, you sure as hell ain’t gon’ stand there helplessly. (I’m sure it was a comedic show for bystanders to watch.)
Moral of the story: Don’t trust any deer, or anything that looks cute for that matter.
After the incident, I laughed at myself (a common theme and occurrence in my life). I even bought a coin pouch with a deer on it from a souvenir shop to remind myself of the comical experience, because frankly, there’s no better memory of Nara than this.
I had spent only a day in Nara, but I loved it, especially this park where I ate lunch and proceeded to spending the rest of my day. With subtle winds brushing against my cheek, it was the perfect atmosphere for me to do what I do best in my natural habitat: zone out, disconnect, and recharge. It was also entertaining watching school kids in uniform taking group selfies.
Evening rolled around and I made it back to Kyoto. I did what I usually do when I arrive at my guesthouse: sit on the chair outside and just breathe.
Across from me was a local family-owned restaurant that tickled my fancy since the first day I arrived, as it specializes in tonkatsu, a Japanese dish that consists of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet, which I’ve been wanting to try. Since it was my last night in Kyoto, I knew I had to give this place a go.
Walking in, I was greeted by a lovely grandmother who led me to my table and gave me a menu. Her daughter, which I’d see playing with a little girl (presumably her own daughter) every day, was the cook. I watched her work her expertise, while wishing that the next plate was mine.
Minutes later, the food arrived. The tonkatsu was served with cabbage, mashed potatoes, miso soup, and pickled veggies. The food was plenty with my side order of rice, and I tried polishing my plate to no avail — everything was delicious.
The establishment exuded a peaceful atmosphere with only the news on the television as background noise, which the grandmother would pause to absorb every now and then. Locals, all of whom were men, ate away in silence; and as a foreigner and a young woman eating alone, I didn’t feel alienated as anticipated — I felt like I belonged.
The night was young, but still, I had some packing to do, so I sheepishly walked out the door and into my guesthouse. The next day was a big day: I was off to Tokyo.