After a shower to wake us up, we headed for dinner in Kyoto and managed to find a cool underground restaurant where we had some prawn gyoza and duck. Nice restaurant with seats at the bar, normal tables and a Japanese style area. After all the walking we opted for the comfort of the bar seats! A stroll around the shops and restaurants ensued before heading back to the hostel for a relatively early night ahead of more walking in Nara. Check out was 11am so we slept in and soon got ourselves on a bus to the station for our journey through the countryside to Nara. 76 minutes later and we were managing to jump on the Nara loop bus to get towards our Ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel). After a false start (edd not being able to find it), Hel saw the sign and we arrived at the Ryokan Seikanso with sliding door and awesome Japanese garden in a central courtyard. We filled in necessary paperwork and headed off into Nara, stopping for lunch on the way.Within Nara-koen (a largepark containing most of the sights) roam approx 1200 deer which in pre-Buddhist times were considered messengers of the Gods and today enjoy status as National Treasures. Kofugu-Ji was first up on our sightseeing walk, an impressive temple transferred from Kyoto in 710. There were also two large pagodas, 3 and 5 storeys built in 1143 and 1426 respectively. The latter is the second tallest pagoda in Japan, beaten by To-ji which we saw in Kyoto!
Next up was the incredible Todai-ji, one of Nara and Japan's star attractions. Through the huge Nandai-mon gate and Todai-Ji comes into view. It is the largest wooden building in the world and is shockingly huge! This contains the Daibutsu-den Hall and inside this is The Daibutsu (Great Buddha) - one of the largest bronze structures in the world originally cast in 746. 16m high and consisting of 437 tonnes of bronze and 130kg gold, truly amazing. Nigatsu-do and Sangatsu-do followed, both sub temples of Todai-Ji a small walk up the hillside. The prior has an incredible view out over Nara. Next was Kasuga Taisha, an 8th century shrine at the foothill of the woods and surrounded by the ever present herds of sacred deer. The approach to this shrine is lined by hundreds of lanterns, impressive enough as it was but probably incredible when lit twice a year at the festivals. Back to the Ryokan to head to our room - amazing! Real Japanese style with futons and sliding paper walls. It also has large male and female bath/shower room with a huge heated bath so warm the room is more like a steam room. Then we went off out to dinner at Mister Donut to have some noodles and a donut each!
On Saturday we were up leaving the Ryokan and heading for Osaka amid bouts of rain despite it still being very warm. Again the trains were ok to wind our way to the hostel other than a brief blip - turns out Osaka and Shin-Osaka are different stations with different lines etc! Quickly dropped our bags at the hostel where luckily our japanese style room was ready and we were swiftly back out and to Shin Osaka for some noodles for lunch (the same chain of restaurant we ate at in Tokyo station). Different orders this time though. Making the most of our short time here we jumped on a Shinkansen and headed down to Hiroshima for a quick look around the city and tram ride to the Peace Memorial Park and Atomic Bomb Dome which was one of the only structures to survive the explosion due to the bomb exploding 600m directly above it. Very sombre experience around the park. But then back on the Shink to Osaka and staying out we headed to the Dotombori to see the impressive night scapes and for dinner. Dinner was amazing in a restaurant that gives you raw meat that you cook yourself on a grill built into the middle of the table. All sorts including chicken neck, aged beef, beef skirt, sausage etc. We then stayed out longer, walking the meal off, and headed over to see Osaka-Jo castle which was equally impressive lit up against the night sky. Hel made friends with some local cats (come back to this as battery low!....)