We only spent one day in Nara but it deserves its own post. Nara was such a fun experience and a wonderful location for a day trip outside of Kyoto. It’s only an hour away by train and it’s very easy to get around once you’re there.
Steak Ciel Bleu
We got to Nara in time for a late lunch and since Nara is pretty close to Kobe, we figured it was a good opportunity to get some Kobe Beef. We had the tiniest big of Wagyu in the states, but never real Kobe before. Note: All Kobe is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe.
We stopped at Steak Ciel Bleu and were the only people there. It’s an upscale restaurant and it was between lunch and dinner hours, but I like to pretend that my husband called ahead and rented out the place. He did not, but the service was still wonderful. Pro tip: Most high end restaurants in Japan offer the same menu for lunch, but cheaper – we would have paid 2x more had we dined at dinner time. The chef prepared our meal on the grill in front of us, and I don’t remember what it was, but it was delicious. The chef then motioned for me to grab my camera (very thoughtful) as he prepared our steak. If you ever have a nice steak and they ask you how to prepare it, the answer is always medium rare.
That was the single most delicious piece of meat I have ever had the joy of eating. I’m still kinda salty that I had to share with Stink, but half a Kobe steak is better than none. While I will continue to reduce the amount of meat I eat on a regular basis and try to find locally sourced, but I can never be a vegetarian as long as Kobe steak is a thing. Never.
Bike Riding Around Nara
In between meal courses, we planned out the rest of our day in Nara. While most sights we wanted to see were within Nara park, it would take us some time to get everywhere so we rented bikes! I hadn’t ridden a bike in years, but the cliche “it’s just like riding a bike” is a cliche for a reason. Nara park was flat with wide sidewalks and plenty of paths. Just steer clear of deer poop and you’re good to go.
Speaking of deer, there are over 1,200 “wild” sika deer roaming the park. I say “wild” because the deer are friendly enough and you can purchase deer crackers to feed them and the deer know it. Once you pull out those wafers you will be swarmed by deer who may or may not headbutt you in an attempt to get more crackers out of you. You’ve been warned.
Nara is also home to Tōdai-ji, one of world’s largest bronze Buddha. I tried to get a picture of it that would show just how large it is, almost 50′, but I failed. The building the Buddha is housed in was the worlds largest wooden structure until last two decades.
While everyone knows I’m not religious in any way, it’s hard not to admire such a grand work of art that’s been in existence for well over a thousand years. The grounds and the weather were both beautiful and it was a great way to end our day in Nara.
Nara was the last stop on our tip before we headed home to New Jersey. Up next is a bit of knowledge sharing from my time in Korea and Japan so you can learn from my mistakes.