Did you know that Nara is considered a National Treasure to the Japanese? Rightly so: it’s full of ancient temples and palaces and was once the capital of Japan.
Did you know that this “national treasure” status also makes it illegal to camp in the wild anywhere in the parks?
Because we didn’t.
OK, to be fair, we were warned that camping in any of the Nara parks was, in fact, prohibited. But we were nonetheless surprised to find a police officer knocking on the outside of our tent after we set it up in a really remote corner of one of the parks. None of the parks up until this point had been monitored by police! And we assumed that since we were in an area roped off to car traffic and away from any major temples, we would be okay.
We were wrong. Mea culpa.
Here’s how it all went down. We spent more time in Nara getting ready for the next stages of the trip during daylight hours than we had anticipated, and so when night time rolled around and the crowds of people had left the parks, we figured we would subtly roll in and camp in a discreet corner – and leave no trace we had even been there when we exited before daybreak the next morning.
We lasted about two hours in that tent, but get this: there were wild deer and some wild boars roaming around us! The deer in Nara are famous – most people know about them and make stopping to see them a part of the visit to Nara. But when I heard the wheezing grumbling sounds happening near our tent – wheezing and grumbling like no deer I had ever heard – I had to pop out and witness the family of swine running off at the sound of the tent zipper. Bronwyn, as you might expect, was completely freaked out at this point.
So if was probably a relief (at least, in some corner of her mind) when a police officer gently evicted us from our wild camp. He would point out, as we had been warned, that camping was prohibited because the whole park area is a national treasure to Japan.
He was really, really, nice about it.
I mean, things could have gone a lot worse. His English abilities were quite good and I apologized as profusely as I could. We packed up and he even left us alone for long enough to accomplish that. He radioed something to some colleagues and they joined him to see what we were up to.
As we were pulling away, he let us know that there was an event happening the next mowning in the place where we had hoped to camp. What a nice guy! He didn’t need to make excuses to us! We were in the wrong!
And so, sweaty and spooked from the late night eviction, Bronwyn and I made our way to the cheapest hotel we could find that would be on our route to Osaka the next day: The Nara Fine Garden Love Hotel.
I won’t go into the whole Love Hotel cultural explanation and experience here if you’ve never heard of them. I had never stayed in one before and was suspicious of what the experience would be like. Suffice it to say that we were pleasantly delighted with our clean room and rather spacious setup. It would get us ready for the journey to Osaka the next day, leaving the boars, deer and national treasures of Nara behind.
Middle school teacher on hiatus/budding permaculturalist currently cycling the world. Sometimes he acts in plays and film. Mostly he travels and blogs about it. Christian is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com