December 2, 2018: Nara Day 1!

On our last night in Osaka, we met up for dinner with Akemi’s old university friend, Ayaka, for some long overdue yakitori.  The girls had a great time catching up while I just tried my best to KEEP up.  Fortunately, on the occasions when the conversation went over my head, there was the food to command my focus –

We all did skewers while Ayaka and I had a couple of beers.  The standout plate of the evening, at least as far as I was concerned, was the horumon bowl – sauced offal crowned with an egg yolk.

After dinner, I was in dessert mode.  We took a stroll and ended up at the Miyazaki-inspired Maison de Gigi for some chocolate-dipped waffles and a hazelnut latte.

I was exhausted and went to sleep as soon as we got back to the hotel.  Then, of course, woke up at 1:00 a.m.  But managed to fall back asleep at around 2:00 and stayed asleep. Until 6 a.m.

We took one final walk around Osaka and grabbed several breakfast bites along the way –

Akemi helped herself to some convenience store open.  The floating white clouds (super fluffy fish cakes) are her favorite!

I perused some of the amazing baked goods, among them THE chocolatiest chocolate croissants ever made, but ultimately settled on –

A breakfast bonanza that included the ubiquitous curry pan (deep-fried and stuffed with sweet curry pork), a five-pack of butter caramel cookies, a super Hokkaido creamy cream bun, and the Ruby Kit Kat, presumably made from the rare ruby cacao bean.  Despite its fruity undertone, I quite liked it, possessed as it was of a nice sweet and ever so slight sour balance.

Oh, and lest I forget – we also grabbed the famed Osaka pork bun – Go Go Ichi!  There are always line ups outside these stands and now I know why.  Plump, sweet, delicious!

We caught the shinkansen to Nara.  After prepping by watching a slew of Nara-themed youtube videos, I was fully expecting to be swarmed by the famed deer that roam their streets.  Unfortunately, according to Akemi, the deer are confined to a specific park and, sadly, don’t share the roadways with cars and pedestrians.

Along the way, we stopped at the city’s most famed mochi shops where the glutinous rice desserts are made by hand (and wooden mallet), beaten into a sticky, goopy consistency that Akemi is such a fan of.

Eventually we arrived at our destination, the Aota family temple where Akemi’s father was laid to rest.  Akemi’s mother, older sister, and younger brother were in attendance along with about a dozen other close family members.  After a short ceremony presided over by the temple monk, we were preparing to head back to the station and start our long journey back to Tokyo when Akemi’s sister waved me over and handed me a bottle. She informed me it was a final gift from me from Akemi’s father.

December 2, 2018: Nara Day 1!

I couldn’t believe it.  A bottle of Yamazaki 18, my favorite whisky, incredibly expensive (at $500 dollars a bottle) and almost impossible to find.  I am touched.

12 thoughts on “December 2, 2018: Nara Day 1!

  1. Amazingly beautiful cityscapes, Joe and it doesn’t seem overcrowded. Not what I’d imagine at all! You are tempting me to visit here …
    The food all looks so delicious too (a lot is vaguely familiar today!)

    What a wonderful but poignant gift from Akemi’s Dad. He obviously thought a lot of you. He seems a very special man. Please send Akemi my thoughts and condolences.

  2. Oh my. The original Yamazaki18.
    Truly an incredible, extraordinarily generous, gift.
    Perhaps? … to be opened on the day you marry his daughter.
    For she is the greatest gift he has ever bestowed.

  3. What an adventure. So sweet of Akemi’s father to give you that amazing whiskey.

  4. What a beautiful gift. Touching.

    Mmmm, Japanese bakeries are the best. I used to walk by one every day on my way to work. Mmmmm.

    I know I have been to Nara when I was 13, and have vague memories of the deer park. Where they do roam is Miyajima, walking right into shops. My parents were visiting and took me on a short trip there, staying in a lovely old ryokan. We went walking one morning and one of the tiny stags attacked us. Gored my father in the arm and ribs. They may be cute, but they’re little jerks.

  5. It seemed like a standard interesting Japan blog post, until that last part. Now I’m all teary eyed. What a beautiful gesture. Akemi’s father was an amazing man, but knowing Akemi, I guess that’s not surprising.

  6. I really want to go to Japan as well, but I don’t have a native speaker to go with. How are the Japanese people toward North Americans who don’t speak the language?

  7. That gift was so thoughtful! What would be a good occasion to open it?

    The food looks amazing!

    Again, very sorry for Akemi’s loss. 🙁

  8. Your food descriptions are making me hungry.
    What a generous gift from your father in law, i would imagine it shows that he had a deep love for his son in law.

  9. It’s good that you and Akemi were able to be there for the funeral.
    Yamazaki 18. What a lovely gift! You can think of him every time you take a sip.

    Curry pan! One of my favorite foods in all the world.
    And fresh mochi. And steamed pork buns!

    The Nara deer are in a park near the Todaiji temple, which is definitely worth a visit, and they are pushy little devils.

  10. Breakfast choices look great. The temple ceremony sounds beautiful; small intimate family members. Akemi’s father adores you and gave you two incredible gifts — this rare whisky and his blessing that he knows you are going to take care of his wonderful and unique daughter for the rest of your life, no matter what anything might say on paper. Life partners. Having it on paper somewhere doesn’t matter; its what your actions, your hearts, and your commitment to one another say.

  11. Wow, that is a nice gift from Akemi’s father. Do you think he read your blog regularly and knew you loved Whiskey? I bet he did and that is how he kept up with you two daily. He must of been very proud of his daughter and you.

  12. This post was a roller coaster; Blade Runner vistas, choco-waffles, babies with antlers, and that lovely and heartbreaking last gift! Sending more hugs to Akemi, her mom and sis and bro, I wish I could do more to ease their loss. This is my fave Amiri Baraka poem for Akemi and her lovely family about a sad father inspired by his daughter’s faith:

    Lately, I’ve become accustomed to the way
    The ground opens up and envelopes me
    Each time I go out to walk the dog.
    Or the broad edged silly music the wind
    Makes when I run for a bus…
    Things have come to that.
    And now, each night I count the stars,
    And each night I get the same number.
    And when they will not come to be counted,
    I count the holes they leave.
    Nobody sings anymore.
    And then last night, I tiptoed up
    To my daughter’s room and heard her
    Talking to someone, and when I opened
    The door, there was no one there…
    Only she on her knees, peeking into
    Her own clasped hands.

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