The happiest place on earth..

Is not Disneyland. It’s the deer park at Nara. I kid you not, it’s just as kooky as it sounds. Vendors set up shop around the park, selling packets of wafer-like biscuits for 150¥ a pop. Simply holding on to a cracker will result in several deer headbutting you for a treat. They’re like large dogs.. But with horns. Sounds frightening, but there’s something hilariously entertaining about watching patrons get poked and shoved around by creatures we’re taught to think are rather shy.

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Deer crossing signs.. We’re getting close

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Deer. Everywhere. Just wandering around the park, both within and outside of the gates.

What is personal space?

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Looks like he’s posing but he was really trying to eat through my hand to get to the biscuit.

The younger deer aren’t as well trained, but the idea is that if you bow to the deer, he’ll bow back in return for a biscuit. What a dear.

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Interacting with Jeanna, Nara edition

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Hi there.

Couldn’t resist after walking past. Soba has become yet another favorite..

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Quick lunch, then off to explore some more!

Nara is also home to several famous temples, shrines, bridges, and gardens.

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Nandaimon Gate

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One of the two warriors protecting the gates. This one made me miss Jeanna even more. Read in her voice: “I never did that”

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Todai-ji, home to the largest bronze statue of Buddha in the world.

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Kagami-ike pond

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Five-Storied Pagoda

The deer park was certainly a highlight, it took ‘petting zoo’ to a whole other level. On my way to the train station, I passed by yet another mochi stand. Couldn’t say no the green tea red bean sesame powder combo yet again.

Luckily, I was able to catch a part of the process on video.

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The goopy blob that is just oh so delicious.

Next stop, a cooking class in Osaka! Justin, when I told you that I was headed to Japan first, you told me that I absolutely must try a street snack known as takoyaki (octopus balls.) I one-upped you, and decided that I would not only try them, but learn how to make them as well!

I booked a cooking class via TripAdvisor, and lucked out as I was the only student for that given slot.

Yayo (the chef) opened the course with a ceremonial matcha tasting.

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Her sous chef, Akane!

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The menu for the day!

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Homemade flavored sakes and soy sauce, these were delicious. Yuzu is a citrus fruit that is extremely hard to find in the US, I found the flavor to be similar to a Meyer lemon.

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What looks like a rock is actually dried tuna; the apparatus below is used to shave the tuna piece down. The shavings are called Bonito flakes, and are an integral flavoring in many Japanese dishes. Grating the tuna down was hard work.. Thankfully Yayo had some pre-shaved flakes set aside.

We began by making dashi (a broth made of steeped Bonito flakes and kombu (Seaweed.) After reserving some of the dashi, we added diced tofu, more Seaweed, and miso paste. The tofu in Japan is worlds better than anything I’ve tried at home, now to find a comparable product when I get back..

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Miso soup!

Next we made dashimaki, or Japanese egg omelet. In one of my precious posts, there’s a video of a man making tamagoyaki. The two dishes are very similar; however dashimaki also has soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and dashi added to the egg mixture. Forgot to take a picture before I ate it…

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Next, we made Okomoniyaki (Japanese pancake.) This was probably my favorite dish of the night. The pancake was made up of a flour/egg/dashi base, grated yam, cabbage, pickled ginger, tempura flakes, egg, and pork belly.

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Topped with an Okomoniyaki sauce, mayo, bonito flakes, and dried seaweed. YUM.

Last, but not least. The octopus balls! Susan and Andrew: totally calling you out here. Clarifying, these are balls of octopus and not octopus..Balls. Haven’t gotten that adventurous yet..

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Didn’t quite get a in-the-process picture, but the takoyaki balls are made of the same flour/egg/dashi mixture, and are filled with pickled ginger, tempura flakes, and chopped octopus! These too are served with a special takoyaki sauce, mayo, bonito flakes, and dried seaweed.

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I had such a great time learning about new cuisine and cooking aside Yayo. I will definitely be making these dishes at home now that I know how to. Thank you Yayo!!

Couldnt have asked for a better way to end my time in Japan. Preparing myself for a massive culture (and weather) shock.. Myanmar here I come!

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