After having gouged a groove onto the same pavements and footbridges of Kobe for three days, I decided that it's time to take my nephew on an excursion.
Any one of these is a day-trip away from Kobe: Hiroshima, Fukuyama, Okayama, Himeji, Kyoto, Osaka not to mention any hidden gem in between any of these.
My in-law mentioned the bean might like to see the deer roaming wild on the streets and lawns of Nara, a valley south-east of Kyoto.
I checked the itinerary. A mere 1h45min away, not the closest destination.
2 trains. A train change in Osaka, the heart in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, Kansai.
My eyes lit up at the thought of the adventure. What's the worst that can happen? A blow-out during the rush-hour in Osaka. A massive mama-tantrum at the furthest point away from mama.
We'll see. We had a good rapport with nibling – and I started to have an instinct of what they wanted at what time of the day.
Plus I also wanted to see Nara for myself.
We grabbed a local train to Osaka, the bean was happy checking out the scenery being pushed by the windows.
Osaka train station was very conveniently labeled also in English, and elevatored down to the last platform. We were in the connecting Osaka Loop line local train to Nara in less than 5 minutes. The nibling loved the action.
The second train was longer, and we occupied ourselves with a stickerbook, sticking stickers on top of other stickers, covering the previous one as well as possible.
Arriving in Nara station I suddenly noticed that we were surrounded by couples and small groups of tourists all funneling through to the long street leading down to the park area. We weaved our way through fast with a made-up certainty of knowing where to go.
They say you must dress up for the job you want, not for the one you have. I have a similar view of moving through crowds. My worst nightmare is standing around looking like I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time and that I don't now where I'm going.
I may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I may not know where I'm going. I may even enjoy inhabiting these experiences. But I must look and seem like I know where I'm going.
Realising we would both get hungry soon, and that it would take at least two hours going through the main sights of the temple area, we walked a bit out from the masses and found what ended up being a brilliant small ramen place, with plenty of room at 11.45, and the nibling with an ample appetite for Kitsune tofu ramen and a small bowl of rice. They got 5 kawaiis from neighbouring customers.
Changed and happy to roam around, we entered the temple area which proved to have ramps and accessible entrances in abundance.
It didn't take long before the bean noticed a small group of the 300+ deers in the park, and soon enough they were eating paper-biscuits from their hand.
We stopped and parked the pram in front of the Todai-ji, and attempted to stay in the line to see the giant Buddha-statue inside. The nibling was entertained by being alternately in my arms and walking about a small perimetre without us losing our place in the line. 20 more kawaiis here.
Once inside, the bean ran and roamed around the huge cedar-pillars that buttressed the layered wooden roof over the head of the giant deity. Their joy was contagious and I was moved by the happy reactions of other visitors to our silly games in that sacred place. There was space for a giant statue as well as spontaneous games of hide-and-seek, bumping into grannies and flower-pots. By the time the bean descended the steps back onto the courtyard, they had an audience of about 15 people gather around in a horseshoe. That's 15 more kawaiis.
We made it almost all the way back to the station during nap-time, and boarded the train in time for rush-hour in Osaka.
The pram made sure the bean had all the space they needed. Luckily they were also in a mood to stick to that space. But I must say, had I not nipped to Lawsons to get them a bag of nibblesticks and a bag of blackcurrent fizzlers for myself, that traverse would've been a lot more interesting.
A few days later we went to the Anpanman Children's museum in Kobe. Three adults to one child was more than enough so I just sat down to read my first Sebald.