Nara – Nara Park

untitled-324Vehicles, congested roads, noise and the usual buzz of a city were all absent here. As we continued our walk through the forested area, just the sounds of rustling leaves, the occasional softened chatter, gushing water in a nearby stream, could be heard. It seemed distant from the din of the city nearby.

untitled-323 untitled-322Along the path, a tree, twisted trunk with spreading buttress roots caught my eye. It was exceptionally captivating both in structure and form. The ground was bare apart from a few ferns. Such is the natural environment here. Maples and a variety of trees, both young and old, occupied this cool part of the forest.

Not far, near a vermilion painted bridge over a slow flowing stream amidst the wooded forest is picturesque thatched-roof teahouse, “chaya”. A few low tables were set up outside under the trees. Across the bridge were a few more shops. We entered into a restaurant. It must be the most atmospheric place to eat, amongst this wonderful and refreshing greenery. The location was exceptional. Not quite under the trees but strips of bamboo roof instead.

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“Eating with one’s eyes is truly meaningful when it comes to the presentation of Japanese food. It’s appealing, appetising and could almost taste them. This, is even before consuming the dishes”. One bowl of rice porridge with “omeboshi”, “tsukemono”, pickled vegetables and fruits, and another boiled rice with tofu in “dashi” broth. These are accompanied with four dishes – tofu with steamed slice of ladies finger and crisp fried shrimp; boiled lotus root, a slice of courgette, potato; preserved daikon, four angled bean, mushroom, a mix of sweet potato and a gingko nut; fish meat wrapped with “nori” and a green stick of vegetable. The dishes are either boiled, steamed or cooked with a riot of flavours – sweet, sour, salty, umami, “savoury”, slightly bitter, tangy and especially the pickled vegetables, tangy. All this, slowly washed with miso and green tea. We are in paradise! Added to this is the green and serene environment. Nirvana perhaps but certainly close!

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