Nara City – history, deer, and a flaming mountain

This weekend we took a westbound train across the mountains to visit the city of Nara. Having been the capital of Japan from 710-784 (no, I’m not missing a digit there, I really mean the 8th century), the city is rich in history and cultural heritage. It was difficult to really get a grip on the scope of the history – I was contemplating this as I read the sign in front of the Five Storied Pagoda explaining that the original building was built in 700-something, but regrettably the one before me was a reconstruction dating from 1400-something. In the 1400s, my country was still an unknown “New World”, possibly off the edge of a flat world – and here, they were already rebuilding massive structures of historical significance. Incredible.
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Becoming a local and getting humbled (plus bonus photos from the park)

I picked up our alien registration cards from our ward office yesterday, which means that yes, we are officially aliens (I can hear my little brother’s snarky comment all the way across the ocean). More importantly, we are now legal residents and no longer tourists.

I’ve been working on becoming familiar with my immediate surroundings, which for me is a big step towards feeling at-home. My method of doing this involves walking, walking, and more walking. I’ve pounded out a lot of kilometers while exploring my neighborhood, always making a point to take a different route each time I go somewhere. It’s not uncommon for my walks to take unexpected detours where I often find hidden gems such as parks, ponds, shrines, or fun stores.
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The Neighborhood, Part One

Today was a gorgeous sunny day, so I took the opportunity to hit the streets with my camera and check out the neighborhood. It was good to get out and walk! Most of my time this week has been spent going to the grocery store, making dinner, making tomorrow’s lunches, and washing dishes… but as I learn how to navigate the market and what to do with all these new ingredients, I’ve been able to become much more efficient and thereby create free time for myself. Yesterday’s trip to the market was completed in under 30 minutes including the bike ride there and back, which was a marked improvement over my two-hour “what in the world is in this bottle, and what is soy sauce called here?” trip earlier in the week!

Join me on a photo-tour around our immediate surroundings and the two adjacent districts. If you want a closer look at any of the pictures, you can click on them to have them open larger. Continue reading

Shopping

Joe started work today, which means we are officially transitioning from being on vacation to actually settling in and living here in Japan. In honor of this occasion, I thought I’d share with you a little bit about the everyday things that we’ve experienced so far. Today I’ll focus on shopping, since it’s such a huge deal here and has been a big part of us figuring out how to get settled.
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Food

After my tales of grilled pork fat balls and squid-on-a-stick, I figured I should probably reassure you that the rest of the food we have enjoyed during our first week in Japan has been wonderful. As a whole, we’ve been doing really well on the Japan diet – eat small portions of fish and chicken, plenty of rice and tea, and walk everywhere. I think this lifestyle is going to be very good for us!

Cafe Danmark, my favorite morning haunt

As I mentioned earlier, though, giving up sweet foods is going to be tough for me. Since we’re still staying in the hotel at Nagoya Station, we’ve been enjoying a daily breakfast at Cafe “Danmark”, a Danish style bakery that has amazing fruit pastries… along with some questionable ones such as curried egg donut and hot dog/potato/cheese bun. Oddities aside, a pastry and some milk tea or hot cocoa (pronounced co-co-ah) is still a perfect way to start the day. I just can’t do the fish-for-breakfast thing yet. Ask me again in a year and maybe I will have warmed to the idea, but I’m not expecting that change anytime soon!
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