23 Jun - 26 Jun 2013 Nara

East Asia
State of Japan aka Land of the Rising Sun
Suruga-machi 41-2
Guesthouse Nara Komachi +81742870556 guesthouse@wave.plala.or.jp
Brand-new, comfortable and very clean dorm bed with large locker and curtains for a stiff JPY 2,400.- or US$ 23.75 per night.
Private bathroom with very, very clean Japanese high-tech toilet (control panel with eight different buttons and proximity sensor), free wifi inside the room and the toilet; fully-equipped, very, very, very clean communal kitchen with big fridge, but rather small and uncomfortable lounge.
Polite, cordial and very helpful staff; excellent English.
Beer: 500-ml cans of ice-cold and drinkable Japanese Santory Rich Malt Beer (c. 5 % alc./vol., “Enjoy Rich Taste in Relaxing Time”), with stamped Braille patterns of raised dots on top of the cans (saying: “alcohol”), in order to avoid getting blind drunk, for JPY 160.- or US$ 1.65 per can from the nearby AEON TopValu supermarket +81742255040. Alternative: Reasonably priced, full-bodied Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (JPY 498.- or US$ 5.10 per bottle) from the same AEON TopValu supermarket; kanpai!

Click below for an interactive road map of the Guesthouse Nara Komachi in Nara City, which we would highly recommend, and for directions:


Matt: Visiting the ultimate tourist highlights of bambitous Nara City, all of them distinctive UNESCO World Heritage Sites: (i) the 8th-century CE Todaijo Temple (entrance: JPY 600.- per tourist), the largest wooden structure in the world, (ii) the 7th-century CE Kofukuji Temple (entrance: JPY 300.- per tourist) with its signature five-storey pagoda, one of Nara’s landmarks, and (iii) the vermilion coloured Kasuga Taisha Shrine (entrance: JPY 500.- per tourist) with its cypress-bark roofs and hundreds of stone lanterns, built in perfect Japanese harmony with its natural environment.

Matt: Listening to a lovely concert of traditional Japanese gagaku music, which has been performed at the Imperial Court in Kyoto for several centuries, at the Sangatsudo Temple, played by a trio of young musicians who played in wonderful harmony and who excelled on the koto, the shō and the ryūteki.

Matt: Learning about the subtleties of highly abstract and stylised Japanese garden design at the Yoshikien Garden +81742225911 (free entrance for foreigners), consisting of (i) a charming tea-ceremony flower garden, (ii) a sloped and curved pond garden and (iii) a serene moss garden, the latter perfectly suited for godly meditation about the future of the NIKKEI-225 index.

Matt: Taking an active part, for the sake of completeness before leaving Japan, in an extended sake degustation (contribution: JPY 400.- for the almost bottomless afternoon session) at the Harushika Sake Brewery (+81742232255, company slogan: “Polish the rice, polish the water, polish the technique and polish the mind.”), which produces a light, mellow-tasting high-quality sake with a flowery yet sharp flavour, kanpai!

"The Japanese have perfected good manners
and made them indistinguishable from rudeness.” 

Matt: Struggling through the Japanese operating instructions and managing to launder safely a 5-kg load of my dirty linen at a nearby coin laundry (washing for JPY 300.- and drying for JPY 100.-).

Matt: Leaving the land of the rising sun, one of the friendliest, funniest and silliest countries where I have ever been (a country where taxi drivers are clad in an admiral’s full-dress uniform with white gloves, where bank managers in stylish business suits overnight happily in capsule hotels and where young girls wear outfits which resemble living dolls who seem to wait for the doll repairer), thus taking the Kate Airport Limousine Bus (driven by a slightly underdressed driver: clad only in an brigadier-general’s mess uniform) from Bus Stop No. 9 in front of Nara’s JR Station straight to Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, Terminal 1 (1 ½ hours, JPY 2,000.- or US$ 20.50 per person), flying with Air Asia X (“Now Everyone Can Fly Xtra Long”) in an arctic Airbus A 330-300 from Osaka non-stop back to Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport Sepang (KLIA-LCCT), for JPY 12,150.- or US$ 155.-, one way and all inclusive, changing in mid-air my watch from Japan Standard Time (GMT/UTC + 9:00 hours) to Malaysia Standard Time (GMT/UTC + 8:00 hours) and smelling the heavily polluted Malaysian air, caused by forest fires on Sumatra, during the landing approach inside the cabin, being issued with another 90-day-visit pass for a “social visit” to Malaysia on arrival, free of charge, taking a yellow Aerobus shuttle (c. 70 km, 1 ½ hours, MYR 8.- per person, no spitting) through thick and heavy smog, much worse than last year in Beijing, straight to KL Sentral and hereafter the reliable monorail train (MYR 2.50 per person, from KL Sentral to Medan Tuanku Station) straight to my pre-booked Tune Hotel in downtown.

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
Facing Japan
© Konni & Matt

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From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to believe your government;
It’s good to count on your grandparents.
Keep your bearings!