A Travellerspoint blog

Nara

... or why the Japanese put their children on elk in Banff

We got up late, as we tend to do on those days in which we decide to do things, and decided to make our way into Nara for a nature fix. We made our way to the trains, and got on a really comfortable looking one heading in the right direction, and we though everything would be just fine. Well, it was, but then one of the train workers came up to us and apparently we had gotten on the super duper fancy express train which cost a whole lot more than we planned on spending. So there went most of our travel budget for the day. No big deal, though, as we were able to pay the man directly, and we didn`t have to worry about negotiating in a language neither of us can speak. Score!

So we arrived in Nara, and found the tourist information office. Andrew went in for about 15 minutes. I waited outside for him to finish. He emerged with a map, which had been drawn on by one of the kind ladies in the office, showing us exactly what we should take in with the time we had available to us. Off we went!

Nara is beautiful. Pretty sure I want to live there. It's a tie between Nara and Arashiyama. It's surrounded by hills for hiking, and full of temples. And deer.

Oh the deer. They're considered sacred here, and there are vendors selling biscuits to tourists who wish to feed the deer. Andrew and I, after working in the Rockies, have an ingrained mindset that wild animals should not be fed. Ever. Regardless of how sacred they are. So we refrained from purchasing the deer biscuits, and shook our heads at the others who did. I expect that this is the only way the deer get fed; there didn't seem to be a whole lot of natural habitat around that they could use. And the tourists seem to enjoy it. And to be quite honest it was enjoyable for me to see people run out of biscuits and get harassed by the deer they had previously been feeding. They are so fearless; they would walk in amongst the throngs of tourists looking for handouts. And that was the deer.

J feeding Deer.JPG J feeding Deer 2.jpg

(Jamie, I think these pictures explain why there are so many run ins between Japanese tourists and the elk in Banff!)

Nara is also home to the world's largest wooden structure, T┼Źdai-ji's Daibutsu-den, which happens to house the world's largest bronze Buddha or Daibutsu. You pay to get in past the surrounding wall, and you enter this open area, in the middle of which is the temple containing the Buddha. It's big, that's for sure, and apparently it's only two-thirds the size of the original (which burned down). I entered the Hall of the Great Buddha, and looked into the darkness.

Nara Buddha.JPG Nara Guard 2.JPG Nara smaller Buddha.JPG

And I wondered to myself, 'I thought there was supposed to be a big Buddha here. If it's here, then I'm not seeing it.' Even after my eyes adjusted, I still didn't see what I was supposed to be looking at. And then I figured it out: it was a forest from the trees situation. I could`t see the Buddha because there wasn`t anything that I was looking at that wasn`t Buddha. Huge. They`re not kidding. And it was flanked to two other shinier statues that were almost as massive. It`s difficult to describe, and pictures don`t even really do justice to the scale.

As you walk around the Buddha, there are carved wodden warrior statues, as well as a scaled down replica of a temple. There is also a wooden column with a hole in it. The hole is exactly the same size as one of the Buddha's nostrils. Apparently if you can squeeze through the hole, you are assured of enlightenment. Yeah, we didn't try. A couple of our Aussie friends told us a story about when they were at the temple and they saw a western girl try to crawl through it. However, they are a little bigger than most Japanese people and they got stuck. The end of the story is all the Japanese people there gathered around and took pictures of the poor gaijin (Japanese word for foreigner, I'm not sure if it's offensive or not.) girl stuck in the pillar. And, they all cheered when she finally got out. So, the moral of the story is do not crawl through any holes in pillars. Moral #2 The Buddha's nostrils aren't that big.

There were huge crowds at the temples this day, as it was a national holiday. Unfortunately Andrew started to feel a little under the weather, so we came home early. We will definitely be making our way back to Nara again, though.

Posted by agc_cwm 20:10 Archived in Japan

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