I took a casual inter-urban train from Kyoto to Nara. The ride was about an hour. Nara is a city with ancient roots—it was an imperial capital before Kyoto, and that means going back at least a thousand years. But like Kyoto and the other Japanese cities I’ve seen so far on this trip the outskirts and areas around the train station are all too modern, with grim high-rise blocks extending in every direction.
After passing through the train station gates, Nara Station feeds seamlessly into a multi-story department store. The ground floor cafeteria is called La Vie Francais, and serves what is called French food—definitely tasty stuff, and inexpensive enough, but not like any French food I’ve ever seen before. I had a kind of chorizo sandwich on a bun, and an orange-flavored croissant with a swirl pattern in the dough.
My travel agent said the Ryokan where I was staying was about a fifteen minute walk from the train station. Unfortunately, the directions weren’t very good—and the distance was several kilometers. Not being Lightning McQueen, I took an hour or two to get lost, ask directions, get lost again, and so on. The iPhone shot above is of a decorative manhole cover I passed on my way. The cities may be crowded but many touches are simply pretty!
Finding the Sakuraya Guesthouse made the schlepp from the train station worthwhile. This is an old-style 150 year old building in old Nara, a quiet and quaint area of alleys, shops, and ancient buildings. And I was welcomed with extraordinary courtesy and grace. Now on to explore Nara!