Today, I visited nearby Nara (about 45 minutes by train), a town that used to be the imperial capital of Japan for a brief period in the 8th century. Reknown as the home of the Kegon sect of Buddhism, most of the main sights are located in Nara Park, a huge complex with several large ponds, shrines, wooded trails, temples and of course hundreds of very bold deer (shika in Japanese).
The deer are all wild and are considered sacred to the grounds of Nara as legend dictates they were the messengers of a Shinto god enshrined in Nara. However, it looks like the deer have lost the plot because based on my brief observations today it seems like they are now solely interested in chasing after people with food in their hands.
Aside from the roaming deer, Nara is more famous for Todaiji Temple, a colossal wooden hall that houses the largest Buddha statue in Japan, called the Daibutsu. At about 49 feet tall, the Daibutsu towers over the many tourists and school children (again, it’s like every day dozens of schools are on field trips). It’s an astonishing figure of bronze and gold.
Even then, the Daibutsuden (the hall containing the Daibutsu) is on a level of its own.
It’s supposedly the largest wooden structure in the world, and is ironically only 2/3 its original size when built (it was rebuilt several hundred years ago). Anyway, the Daibutsu itself is also surrounded by several guardians, one especially formidable.
You can walk around the back of the Daibutsu where there is a wooden column with a very small hole in it. Something of a fun little game, it’s said the width of the hole matches the size of the Daibutsu’s nostril, and if you can crawl/squeeze through it, you will be endowed with wisdom.
It’s more targeted for children, but some adults had a go which was thoroughly entertaining. One very thin woman made it through, but others weren’t so lucky:
I was glad I could make it to Nara to see the Daibutsu since it originally wasn’t in my plans. Like I mentioned long ago in my first post though, it’s nice to keep things flexible enough for me to visit places out of my itinerary.
I’m heading to Osaka tomorrow, about 30 minutes south of Kyoto, for 2 nights. It’s called a mini-version of Tokyo, and is very famous for its citizens’ heavy accent (hopefully not too difficult for me to understand!).
Here are more pics from Nara: