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Going to Tokyo for the first time, we expected to see a lot of weird stuff. You know, violent and messed up shit—like freaky tentacle porn, cute/scary schoolgirls wielding Katana swords, and 70-years of pent-up sexual/violent frustration from not having an army.
I was even thinking of bringing a splash-guard along, just in case GoGo from Kill Bill showed up and decided to bludgeon someone’s skull open.
But as it turns out, we saw none of that. So when we went to Nara, our next city, we let our guard down. While we were all relaxed, wandering around Nara park, admiring the perfectly manicured grass and the perfectly trimmed cherry trees…
That’s when THEY struck.
Who are they?
Well, let me tell you about the “cuddly” bowing deer of Nara.
Oh did I say cuddly?
I meant murderous.
Because as I quickly found out, beneath all that soft, cuddly fur and those innocent beady little eyes, lies…
YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE.
Let me explain. When we first walked into the park, the guides told to buy some deer cookies. Apparently, these are specially trained “bowing” deer. First you bow, then you wait for the deer to bow back, and then you reward them with a cookie.
I tested this out. As soon as I had the treat in my hands, a cute little deer wandered over, cocking his playful, fury head. I bowed, just as the guides instructed, and low and behold, he actually bowed back!
“Look, hon! He’s bowing!” I told Wanderer, giggling like an idiot. I fed the fawn the cookie and stepped back in awe as he chewed, his beady little eyes fixed on me.
That’s when I decided to buy an ENTIRE stack of deer cookies.
I had barely handed over the money when the sound of trotting hooves filled the air. I spun around. A dozen wide, crazed eyes stared at me, as I found myself surrounded by an entire herd of deer.
Antlers colliding, they advanced on me from all sides. One nearly bit my finger off, trying to snatch the cookies out of my hand. Another, annoyed that I hadn’t fed him first, chomped down on my side, hard enough to tear my dress.
As it turns out, holding a stack of deer crackers in the middle of Nara Park is like being covered with blood inside a shark tank!
So of course I did the sensible thing, which is to throw the stack of cookies at the deer who tried to bite my finger off, and ran away screaming.
Nah, just kidding. That’s not how I roll. Instead, I smacked one of them, yelled at another, and then threatened to kick a third on in the head.
Here’s video proof.
Anyway, long story short, Wanderer’s banning me from going back to Nara. Says it has to do with my “verbal assault of innocent wild animals”. Yeah, whatever. That was totally in SELF-DEFENCE.
Deers are jerks.
Luckily, the next wild animal encounter we had in Japan was MUCH more relaxing.
Prior to coming to Japan, I had heard about a phenomenon called “Owl Cafes”—a place where you can go to enjoy a nice cup of coffee and pet a bunch of owls. So if you’re a big Harry Potter fan like me and have always wanted your very own Hedwig you’d understand why I immediately needed to find one. And find one we did—in Osaka.
Humming the theme from the movies, I entered the café, expecting to find a row of Hedwigs waiting for us in cages.
What we actually found was a waiting room with a tiny owl, no bigger than my fist, perched on a table in the middle of the room. Rotating his head around, he stared at us curiously, while the server told us to wait.
15 mins later, the previous group exited with big smiles plastered on their faces, and we were told to go in.
Adorableness greeted us from all sides as I marvelled at it all. Owls of all shapes and sizes filled the room. Snowy white ones. Speckled brown ones. Some with massive bright yellow eyes. Others with tiny beady black eyes. Some stared at us curiously, while others couldn’t care less and were fast asleep.
They were quickly awoken, though, by my hysterical giggling. One of the guides had just placed a miniature owl into my hand and it was staring up at me, blinking its bright yellow eyes. I quickly melted into a puddle as it cooed and closed its eyes, while I gently stroked its head.
Our guide then showed us how to hold the bigger owls on our forearms, taking pictures for us as we petted all the owls within an inch of their lives.
Wanderer even found a new BFF!
I guess what I learned from this experience is that owls are the best animals ever and deer are assholes who will murder you for a cookie.
Thankfully, there were no deer to be found in Kyoto, our next city. There were, however, lots and lots of bamboo forest and majestic Tori gates:
Oh and sushi. Lots and lots of sushi. Even though we ate out all the time, we didn’t break the bank because not only were cheap sushi conveyor belt restaurants widely available, every train station had affordable ramen places. And everything is done cheaply ($5-6 CAD) and efficiently with vending machines. You just put in your money, press the button next to the noodle you want, and out comes a slip of paper. You bring it to the serving window and voila, a delicious, perfectly textured bowl of Ramen comes out. So even though I couldn’t speak a word of Japanese, it didn’t matter because everything is automated and printed with pictures. Even to this day, I haven’t been able to find truly authentic and delicious ramen for such a low price outside of Japan.
Here’s how much we spent in Nara, Osaka, and Kyoto:
|Category||Cost in CAD/couple||Notes|
|Accommodations:||$57/night||Of the cities we stayed in Japan, Kyoto was the most expensive at $64 CAD/night. Osaka was the cheapest at $49/night. One thing that's very interesting is despite how surprisingly low the cost of accommodations were, we never had to share a bathroom or kitchen and we ALWAYS had laundry. I think this speaks to the ingenuity of the Japanese. No matter how limited the space, they still managed to figure out a way to make a self-contained apartment that's cheap, efficient, and full of conveniences and luxuries. If they ever build up an army, we are all DOOMED.|
|Food:||$45/day||$30 for eating out, $15 for groceries. Thank you Japan for your ridiculously cheap and good vending machine restaurants!|
|Transportation:||$28/day||This includes the $108 CAD for plane tickets from Tokyo to Osaka on Peach airlines and the subway cost to get around.|
|Entertainment:||$5||There were so many free attractions in Kyoto and Osaka (like mountain hiking and parks), we hardly had to spent any money on entertainment. Entrance to attractions were also very cheap and usually less than $6 and the owl cafe was $15 each for 1 hour.|
Can you see why I can’t wait to go back to Japan?