Kansai Diaries – Nara, Nara…

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Oh, deer – that was a truly awful pun in the title.

Another beautiful spring day in Kansai, so I headed down to Nara on the Kintestu Line.  I’d been to Nara a couple of times before but not for a few years.  Saw a few familiar sights like Todaiji, home to the world’s largest wooden building and a Daibutsu to put inside it, and a couple of new ones in Kasuga Taisha and Yoshikien Garden.

I do love Nara, but comparatively speaking I think it’s even more overrun with tourists than Kyoto – largely because most of them are confined to the same tourist trails.  It’s funny, but in Nara I actually found myself asking “Nihongo ga hanasemasuka?” when I wanted someone to snap a picture, because it seems as if you hear more Mandarin or Cantonese than Japanese there.  This was also my first time in Nara not to be approached by middle schoolers (though as always there were boatloads of them there on their school trips) and asked to have a conversation in English.

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  1. e

    I'm missing the pun and I'm a bit sad for it.
    On the happier side of things you still managed your quality tourists-free snapshots. And did you approach the deers or the deers were the one approaching you? I'm familiar with the Euro ones but in the right context they can be rather friendly when you feed them 😀
    I'm also left wondering at how the standard English conversation with eager Japanese middleschoolers goes like.

  2. Nara, nara…. Basically means something like "If it's Nara you're talking about…"

    The deer in Nara are effectively tame, though technically wild. They sell deer feed on every corner.

  3. w

    Middle-schoolers asking you to practice english with them? That's.. Adorable. That deer warning sign is also pretty fantastic

  4. Schools assign them to do it…

  5. P

    Enjoyed you post and pictures as always. How often do you still get approached as a "foreigner" though? I'm guessing your ease in the culture and language probably still surprises some people.

  6. Any time a Westerner speaks any Japanese at all, Japanese people are usually stunned. Middle-schoolers are no exception.

    The approach thing by middle-schoolers tends to happen at places with lots of tourists when the kids are on school trips – it's an assignment for them. Rarely will older Japanese approach you (or each other) cold turkey unless it's for a very specific reason.

  7. l

    The few times that I have been to Kansai region, I have never been to Nara. Mainly Kyoto and Osaka. =P Will probably detour there next time I go to Kansai region.

    The place that I did go to in Japan with tame wild deer wandering around is Miyajima Island (link to photo album). Was there when the typhoon was hitting Tokyo in early October 2014. It delayed the shinkansen I was taking to Hiroshima from Osaka. The train arrived 2 hours late at Osaka from Tokyo due to the typhoon.

  8. f

    Just out of curiosity, can you distinguish between Mandarin and Cantonese? What are the differences to you? I speak Cantonese and a bit of Mandarin, so I'm curious about how the two dialects sound to someone who doesn't speak either of them.

  9. I don't know exactly how I can tell, but I can tell. I have a few Mandarin-speaking friends from Taiwan and China, and I lived in San Francisco where Cantonese is the dominant language of the local Chinese community (which is huge). If you asked me to quantify it I couldn't do it, but the two just sound different.

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