Thesis defense

Feb 23, 2011

Sorry for the long silence. I have been busy with thesis defense preparation! So damn busy!

Me one week ago...Busy busy busy with computer work!

Me this morning...sleep deprived with palpitation!

Me during the presentation...terrified of the judges!

But I am glad I have made it this far...

Everything is finally over!

My graduation ceremony is exactly one month from now...

Then, it will be home sweet home...


Nara at last

Feb 17, 2011

Just like me, my hubby graduated from Japan. Unlike me, he continued his PhD straight after his undergrad and masters study. After the completion of his study, instead of coming back he had the opportunity to work at Nara, the ancient capital city of Japan.
The second time we came back to Japan, he had been wanting to take us to Nara. Hubby tells us how nice the place is but still, we never did make a trip there. Perhaps because I have been there a few times, long time ago. Or perhaps Sya didn't seem to be too interested as the city offers only old temples. So we thought.
During our Osaka trip (trip to USJ) which happened to be a three-day-holiday, we decided it's time to finally visit there as we were approaching our final month in Japan. For your information, Nara is only 1 hour train ride from Osaka. It is easily accessible and also advisable to visit Nara using public transportation.
It was snowing heavily in Osaka on our trip day. The weather forecast had predicted heavy snow in Kinki area (where Nara is located). However, we were all unprepared for big snow. We didn't bring our boots. We had only sneakers on our feet. Looking at the snow from our hotel room just discouraged us to go anywhere at all. But we braved it out after contemplating for hours.

Osaka was struck with the heaviest snow in the past few years. Luckily we had our umbrellas in our car!

We took a train from Universal city, Osaka

Beautiful scenery from the train

We know we are almost there when we see temples and shrines

We arrived at Nara station

Our destination was Nara park. Nara Park (Nara Koen) is a large park in central Nara. Established in 1880, it is the location of many of Nara's main attractions including Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji and the Nara National Museum. The park is home to more than 1000 freely roaming deers, considered in Shinto to be messengers of the gods, The deers have become a symbol of the city and have been designated a natural treasure. Like the deer in Miyajima (Hiroshima), Nara's deer are surprisingly tame, although they can be rather aggressive if they think you will feed them.

Cold, wet and slippery. We had to walk very slowly.

Nara park

We saw a herd of deers looking for food...

The deers approached us as soon as they found us stop. They were so tame and cute! I am liking it!

Walking on slippery road was not fun though...

There are many world heritage temples in Nara

Read this before you approach the deers so that you won't be too surprised when being treated like that! Haha

Deers everywhere...

Walking seemed endless...

Then we spotted kids playing snow fight...they were having fun!

So were these two kids!

This deer couldn't reach the leaves...poor thing. So we helped it by pulling the branches down.

Sya was saying: " Hello there, you seemed cold too. Do you want a hand warmer?"

For the first time I found deer cute! Can I adopt you? I guess I will be jailed if I did! They are the national treasures!

Bye-bye and don't catch cold!

We witnessed some fights too

We have reached the main attraction where souvenir shops could be found along the road.

Hello there! Can I help you?

Yeah, could you please lift this lit? So that I can eat those yummylicious deer cookies under it!

The deers seemed to be attracted to something...

Oh, it is Sya and his sweetcorn. Sya complained that he was hungry so we bought him sweetcorn which was available along the road.

Munch, munch...oishii!

Daddy, the guard with payung. Ooohhh...scary!

Ayah succeeded to discourage one of the three deers (No hitting involved ok, just using the power of his eyes, hahaha). Can you eat a little faster, ayah said.

This particular one was quite stubborn! So resistant!

Another fight going on...

In case you would like to feed the deers, do be prepared when you are swarmed by them!

They will follow you where ever you go...

Entrance to Todaiji temple

Oon the left and right both stood a tall statue. They are said to be the guards of the temple.

We were greeted by this lovely deer...The deers seemed to be attracted to Sya a lot.

Where is the temple? I was told that we had to walk twice the distance to get there...So we decided to give it a quit since Sya was getting cold and wet.

So, we took the same road heading to the station. On the way, the view was just awesome...

Not forgetting to stop by these shops and bought some souvenirs...

We decided to take a Jinrikisya (rickshaw) tour

Our personal tour guide was a friendly and charming guy!

He gave us a lot of info about Nara park...

"Watch out for deer" road sign

The grazing land (for the deers)

The deers were nowhere to be seen since the ground was covered with snow

The roof has been maintained the same since a few hundred years ago...

Sagi ike (Sagi pond), the view was amazing especially with the falling snow.

My personal favorite place! I would come to Nara just to visit here again!
It's beautiful! Can you imagine this place in Spring? With sakura along this road! Yup, it's that great!

The nice blend of old (on the left) and new (on the right)

We have reached our destination, the five tier pagoda
The five tier pagoda, a part of the Kofuku-ji

Kofuku-ji temple was one of Japan's great temples in the eighth century. It was founded in 669 by a member of the Fujiwara clan to pray for the clan leader to recover from illness. It was originally built in Kyoto, but was moved to its present location when Nara became the capital in the year 710. For a while it prospered, but when the Fujiwaras' power began to fade in the twelfth century, the temple lost its influential patrons. Now only a few buildings remain of the original 175 buildings from that period. During its prosperity, it was one of the "Four Great Temples" of the Nara period (710-794), and one of the "Seven Great Temples" of the Heian period (794-1185). Today Kofuku-ji is one of the head temples of the Hosso ("mind only") sect of Buddhism.

Nanendou (南円堂)

We had a late lunch at ayah's favorite okonomiyaki restaurant

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese(as you like) savory pancake. You can order seafood or vegetarian. It's flexible and that's why we love it!

Okonomiyaki is Sya's favorite too!

We later ordered yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles) cause we were too hungry!

This is another ayah's favorite mochi shop...

They hold the record as the "fastest rice-cake pounding" in Japan

The mochi was very delicious. We can buy and eat them straight after they were pounded. We bought five mochi but they were gone very quickly. Hubby said we should have bought twelve...tsk tsk tsk...

We have finally arrived at the Nara station and took the train back to Osaka.

From Osaka, we took a two-hour drive home...

Apparently we were very lucky because snow in Nara hadn't been accumulating for the past few year and it was really rare to see Nara covered in white snow too. So our trip surprisingly turned out to be one of the best trips we have ever made! We are glad that we were persistent to come this time, it sure was a nice surprise!