It was 7am when I heard my phone, rumbling on the pillow. The message on the screen said Time's Arrived. Outside the hostel window, traffic had already started moving. I was packed and on the pavement in half an hour flat, and sitting on the heated Kintetsu Line express before the clock had turned eight.
The sky was ominously grey the closer we got to Nara. Nearing the second last stop, Shin-Omiya, we cut through the site of the ancient palace: an old man jogging in a baseball cap, a baseball team playing catch, a line of cars stalled at the level crossing, Suzakumon Gate. We swept on into the city, past pachinko parlours and 24-hour McDonald's. "Nara, Nara desu," said the voice on the loudspeaker.