Nara is only about 40 minutes away from Osaka by train, and is definitely worth the trip.
Famous for their free-roaming deers, Nara Park is only about 10 minutes walk from the station. It is a straight shot and you know you’ve made it when you see the stalls selling deer crackers.
Nara Park is a very peaceful spot: grass, open air, and gentle deers; only ruined by annoying tourists just like myself. For some reason the deers bow so that you would give them the crackers, which I found a bit unsettling. While some say they were trained, I prefer to think that they’re just following the crackers in the humans’ hands as they bow. The deers are mostly very gentle, but they can get pretty aggressive, or impatient with people taking so long with the food. Two of them went for the crackers in my hand at the same time, and one even bit Jon’s coat to get him to hurry up.
On a nicer day, it would have been great to stroll through the park and maybe even have a picnic (not sure how doable that is with all the deers around, maybe it’s not even allowed), but with the rain getting heavier, we happily agreed to visit the nearby sake brewery to stay warm.
Harushika Sake is about 15 minutes’ walk from Nara Park. The tasting only cost 500 yen per head (can’t really remember the exact amount, but it was cheap), and includes 6 shots, enough to give you a happy buzz. The staff aren’t very fluent in English, but are all very friendly and helpful. It made all the difference to be able to connect with the locals over a some sake. As for the sake, it was the best I had ever tasted. Not that I am an avid sake drinker, but by that point all the sake I have tried tasted the same and sure burned my throat. Harushika’s sake was smooth and refreshing, some best served iced, and others warm. For me, it was a feat to even be able to describe a drink as ‘smooth’, since most things tend taste the same to me.
By this point on our trip, we were beginning to run out of cash and have been carding as much as possible. Yet we were faced by the best sake we have had, available in 1.8L bottles for under HK$200. Screw it, we’ll figure it out. We brought home two large bottles of sake, a sake flask, and six sake glasses – two of which came as a gift from the sake tasting.
Nara was great for us even just as an afternoon trip. We get bored easily so it wasn’t likely that we would have hung around Nara Park for too long, or visited to many sightseeing spots. The one thing that would have made it perfect – apart from the icy rain – would be a tour to actually check out the brewery. I had thought tours were available, but it didn’t seem like an option while we were actually there. To be honest though, I was too warm and happy from the sake to care.