Nara, Japan and the Arcade


Trip Taken: 2007

When the word arcade comes up in regards to Japan, I always think of the monumental buildings with level after level filled with video games. But a better connotation for arcade would be a shopping arcade. Shopping arcades in Japan are in every city. Every city has one and that includes Nara.

The shopping arcade in Nara is much like the ones you would find in Kyoto, Osaka, or Tokyo. It is a small pedestrian path with shops, restaurants, and hotels lined up on both sides. Mainly the first two unless you are walking down on what is not actually a shopping arcade but a street lined with love hotels.

I just finished exploring the park during the day and sat around looking at the turtles at the pond outside of the park entrance. The turtles definitely recognize people since more of them started appearing the closer I got to the edge. I didn’t have anything to feed them with, but it was funny watching them paddle close to the edge of the pond.

By this time, I was fairly hungry and headed toward the shopping arcade near the train station. I saw a lot of restaurants with tempura and sushi displays. But I wanted a pretty simple and cheap lunch, at least by Japanese standards. I kept walking until I saw an Okonomiyaki restaurant. I knew by the pictures of different types of Okonomiyaki. They were selling for about 500-900 yen per dish. That is cheaper than the 1500 yen plus dishes at other restaurants. Plus, I haven’t had Okonimyaki yet so it was a good time to try it.

I walk in and was greeted by two women manning the hot plates. I pointed to the bacon one and one of the women started to make it. She took spoonfuls of the cabbage batter and poured it on the hotplate. She evened it out with her ladle and placed the slices of bacon directly on the cooking batter. She flipped the hot pancake and placed some sauce and bonito flakes on it before handing the dish to me. There was a bottle of squeezable mayonnaise on the side for my own use. The pancake was slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The bacon and cabbage gave the texture some toughness. The sauce mixed well with the sweet mayonnaise. A great introduction to Okonomiyaki. I left completely satisfied.

After my lunch, I walked around for a bit. I didn’t see any store selling Narazuke, the famous pickled cucumber melon from Nara. But I did see a vendor selling green tea mochi. I was meeting up with Adam, my part-time travel buddy in Japan, later that evening so I thought I would buy some Nara mochi to share. I passed by a grocery store selling some ready made food. This would have made an excellent lunch too. They had some tempura stuff selling for less than 100 yen. Couple that with some Inari sushi and you would have a pretty good meal. Too bad I was already full. It’s always interesting to see what they sell in grocery stores in other countries. I already bought some stuff in Osaka so I didn’t buy more snacks here.

It was still mid-afternoon when I headed back to the train station. There were some sights back in Osaka that I wanted to see. There were some volunteers from the Japanese Red Cross asking for donations. I spared a coin from my pocket and boarded a train back to Osaka.

Friendly Turtles

Parting Words

Nara’s shopping arcade is fairly small compared to other cities, but it is the best spot to buy some souvenirs. The tourists pass this arcade before they set foot on the train platforms. There are a few hidden gems of real value like my Okonimiyaki restaurant. Walk around and get lost in them.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.