Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

Japan Mar 2011 Day 6 – Nara Todaiji and A Tale of Two Ramens @ Dotonbori

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The bento lunch was cold but tasty, and alas, too short. We continued our way around Nara, crossing Nara Koen and making our way to Todaiji 東大寺, an ancient buddhist shrine, which boasts many “firsts” in this ancient city.

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Todaiji 東大寺, which is one of the main highlights in the “Historical Monuments of Ancient Nara” under “UNESCO World Heritage Sites”. It is the largest wooden building in the world. It is massive in both scales of size and shock value! I vividly remember how astounding the first impressions were when we first laid our eyes on it from afar as we entered its gates. Its sheer grandeur was simply breathtaking!
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Approaching the main hall while walking on the axis line, marked by darker grey tiles. Everyone seems to pale and dwarf in its presence.
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And inside the main hall, lies the largest bronze statue of Buddha in the world! Its even larger than the ones in Kamakura and  Lantau Island in Hong Kong!
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Flanked on the sides of the Daibutsu are colossal wooden statues of the “Guardian Kings”, reaching almost the ceiling.
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One of the most curious looking “contraptions” in this temple, is a hole found  at the base of one of the wooden pillars at the back of the main hall whose girth is the same as that of the Daibutsu’s nostril.  It is said that those who can squeeze through this opening will be granted enlightenment in their next reincarnation. Most children are able to pass through without much effort needed. But to talk about reincarnation into their next lives when they’ve barely started with this one… so surreal…
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And then we have mainland Chinese tourists having a go…looking at how strained the muscles on his palm were, its no easy feat!!! Reminds of Sadako from “The Ring” yeah?
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And then he comes tumbling through! Much to the entertainment amusement of the crowd who cheered him on… humbug!
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And here’s another… wailing and crying for help as she tried to make her way through…来人啊!救命啊!真是的! 快来帮帮我呀!
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Almost there!!! 头过,身体就过? 未必哦!
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And then she realise the crowd on the other side looking at her…. 真是羞死人了, 真是TMD该死!
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Not sure about attaining Nirvana in her next life… she has to survive the embarrassment here first!
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Coming “face to face” with one of the heads of the Guardian Kings, used during their construction.
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A temple staff making inscriptions on the Nokyocho. A Nokyocho is a pilgrim’s book which one can maintains by getting it stamped and inscribed at each temple or shrine visited.
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Here’s another elderly gentlemen penning the words “華嚴”, the name of the Avatamsaka Sutra.
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Adding the last finishing touch…
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Yet another gigantic statue in the Main Hall, of 如意輪觀音 Ryoirin Kannon, one of the numerous manifestations of Avalokiteśvara.
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Just outside the temple, bidding farewell to the deer as we make our way out of Nara…
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Even the manholes are so lavishly decorated. Goes to show how the Japanese pay attention to and scrutinize every single detail!

So that concludes our day trip in Nara, as well slowly make our way back to Osaka, but not without first collecting our luggage from the train station. Its great that most major train stations in Japan have this service, allowing tourists to deposit their luggage for a couple of hours for a couple of dollars. This would have been unthinkable in Singapore. They’d even removed most rubbish bins within the MRT premises over here in Singapore, for fear of terrorists dumping explosives in there. Oh well…

The train ride from Nara back to Osaka was fairly short, since Nara lies somewhere between Kyoto and Osaka. We slept most of the way, feeling utterly exhausted! Before we knew it, we were back to hustle and bustle of the cosmopolitan hub.
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Namba station in Osaka is like Shinjuku in Tokyo. An underground maze!!! While orientating our way back to the hotel, we chanced upon this shop specialising in baumkuchen!
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The log-like cakes hung on the walk to cool down were humongous!
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There were smaller ones available, but we didnt get any. Simply not in the mood! We were absolutely beat! The only thing in our minds was to check into our hotel, take a warm shower and hopefully lie in bed for a while before dinner….zzzz
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Dinner brought us back to Dotonbori, where we had ramen dinner at 四天王拉面 Shi Ten Noh Ramen on our first dinner in Osaka. We were keen to try out the other two ramen joints which were also raved in the guidebooks we’d used for this trip. First up was 金龍拉面 Kinryuu Ramen.
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Prima facie, the presentation seemed pretty slipshod with the char siu slices haphazardly arranged, and the spring onions (negi) all over the place. The broth was thick and creamy (we like!) but laced with MSG (we don’t like!) so definitely not worth trying on that account.

Char siu (braised pork slices) comes in two forms, one pork belly which are much more thinly sliced, while the other, chunky pieces of lean meat.
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The chunky bits are of course healthier, but again less palatable compared to those fatty slabs. One can opt of either all fatty, all lean or a combination of both. To eat indulgingly or conscientiously, we are glad we don’t have to be torn between the two as we won’t be eating here anymore. :)
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If not the pork chunks were braised a bit more… wait, make that a lot more!!!
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Feeling utterly discontented, we hopped over to another joint raved in the guidebooks, 神座拉面 Kamukura Ramen.
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A peek at the menu, with much more variety compared to Kinryuu. The standard bowls are pretty sizeable already but one can always opt for “upsize” to a larger serving of “medium bowl 中盛” which comes with an additional one and a half  “ajitsuke tamago” for another 100 Yen, or even “large bowl 大盛” which comes with 2 extra half-boiled lava eggs for another 300 Yen! Not we are not here to live vivaciously! So the standard bowl would suffice!
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In contrast, Kamukura’s soup base is clear, a tad oily but still acceptable.
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Serving only one type of char siu though, we got leaner cuts of pork belly. Good! Goes to show that if one does it well, one type is more than enough!
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We did opt for a serving of 3 pieces of dumplings for another 100 Yen. Lotsa extra toppings options available from more char siu, negi, to even onsen tamago.
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Pretty well seasoned, with finely minced ginger and spring onions
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Hanjuku tamago aka ajitsuke tamago in runny lava yolks in brilliant sunset orange. Flavours were observable but subtle
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And this is what I LOVE about Kamukura, freeflow pickled chives in chilli and garlic a la kimchi style! I was kinda skeptical about the Japanese doing this well. But OMG I was wrong! This is good sh*t!!!! I made J finish half of the noodles first before polishing off the rest with very very generous portions of chives! Yes I mean very very generous portions. :) That kinda made up for the dining experience at Kinryuu just moments earlier… well, almost.
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Noodles were springy, but then again, most ramen joints we’d been to do their noodles pretty decently. So that can’t really go wrong I guess!

So for us, its Kamukura first, followed by Shi Ten Noh Ramen which we tried about a week back. Kinryuu should seriously be booted out of Dotonbori for serving crap to tourists, ruining the name of good ramen. If they think gaijin tourists know nothing about ramen and they could get away with it, think again! Shame on you Kinryuu!!!

Related posts

Japan Mar 2011 Day 6 – Nara Koen and Katsuga Daisha
Japan Mar 2011 Day 5 – Pâtisserie Jouvencelle Oike Kyoto
Japan Mar 2011 Day 5 – Surviving Depachikas in Japan
Japan Mar 2011 Day 5 – 伏見稻荷大社 & JR Kyoto Station
Japan Mar 2011 Day 5 – 平野神社 北野天满宫
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Japan Mar 2011 Day 3 – Pâtisserie Henri Charpentier
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Japan Mar 2011 Day 2 – Macarons from Patisserie Alcyon
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Japan Mar 2011 Day 2 – Dinner @ 鹤桥风月大阪焼 Fugetsu Okonomiyaki
Japan Mar 2011 Day 2 – Pâtisserie Mont Plus @ Daimaru Umeda
Japan Mar 2011 Day 2 – Umeda & Lunch @ Daimaru
Japan Mar 2011 Day 2 – Osaka Castle
Japan Mar 2011 Day 1 – Dinner @ Shi Ten Noh Ramen, Dotonbori
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13 responses

  1. gertrude

    I hope to visit Japan one day. I always wanted to go there. The scrumptious looking bowls ramen are killing me. They look so delicious!! Thanks for sharing all the beautiful pictures of Japan with us Alan. You are a very talented photographer!

    March 17, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Thanks Getrude! Just some very random shots :)

      March 18, 2012 at 9:14 pm

  2. did you go thru that hole? i can imagine how funny and also quite embarrasing to struggle out thru that hole..alan, your tummy might just got stucked there..haha!

    March 18, 2012 at 9:36 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      hahaha i don’t think I can, I will or I would dare even think about it! Yes, the tummy would be a big problem indeed! LOL

      March 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm

  3. Love my Nara Japen♥♥♥

    March 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Me too! :) Thanks for visiting Yamashita san

      March 18, 2012 at 9:17 pm

  4. Wow, what a post (and how random is that baumkuchen?)! I went to Nara on a high school trip and this brought back some memories; imagine two awkward 6′ high school guys shimmying through that nostril!!!

    March 18, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      haha yes i agree… the baumkuchen was totally random! and so are my other posts actually… just snapshots of the trip :)

      March 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm

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