Nara is only a short train ride away from Kyoto and Osaka and is often visited as a day trip from one of those cities. Nara is was the first capital city of Japan and there has a historical significance. For me, the reason I wanted to visit Nara was to see the wild deer that can be found anywhere in Nara park. The deer are believed to be messengers of God.
Every store sells something that has to do with deer. This headband is actually a christmas headband and meant to look like a reindeer, but it works for normal deer as well 😉
Most of the more popular sites in Nara are located in and around Nara Park. The most significant temple in Nara is Todaiji Temple. Before seeing Todaiji, you enter through the Nandaimon Gate. This large wooden gate is ‘protected’ by two wooden statues that look like they will attack you any second. These two statues represent the Nio Guardian Kings and are designated national treasures together with the gate itself.
Todaiji Temple is a landmark for Nara and was built in 752. It was meant to be the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan. Because it grew so powerful, Japan wanted to lower its influence by moving the capital of Japan from Nara to Nagaoka in 784. The entrance to Todaiji Temple is 500 yen, but for 800 yen you can buy a combined ticket for the temple and one the Todaiji museum where you can look at some of the temples treasures.
High five! 😉
The main hall of Todaiji Daibutsuden hall, houses a huge Big Buddha statue. The hall is the world’s largest wooden building even after the it was reconstructed in 1692 when only 2/3 of the originals building remained. The statue is made of bronze and is one of Japan’s largest Buddha statues. The statue is 15 meters tall and represents Vairocana, one of the 5 dhani-Buddha’s. The 15 meters tall statue sits in the middle between 2 Bodhisattvas.
There are many other statues in the hall, but one of the more populair attractions is a pillar with a hole in its base that is the same size as the Daibutsu’s nostril. It is said that those who can squeeze through this opening will be granted enlightenment in their next life. We decided to just watch people trying to climb out of the hole 😉
Deer are literally everywhere in Nara Park. We are so used to seeing deer that are afraid of any kind of movement, but these deer (just as the ones in Miyajima) are so used to humans. All around the park, tourists can buy shika senbei: a special cracker that is made especially foor the deer. Everyone, including myself, buys a pack and feeds the deer. There are even some animals that don’t even react to the food, but most of them follow you if you have some in your hand. The crackers cost 150 yen. I really enjoyed playing with the messengers of God.
Walking back to JR Nara station, Mark and I took a detour and came across Kofukiji Temple with its pretty 5 story pagoda. This pagoda is Japan’s second tallest, only 7 meters shorter than the 5 story pagoda at Kyoto’s Toji Temple. The entrance to this temple is free.
Finding good food in Japan isn’t difficult and on our way back home I was really craving some tonkatsu. Doesn’t this piece of meat look perfect? 😀 It was the best tonkatsu I have ever had and the restaurant even offered free all you can eat salad, rice and miso soup. It was somewhere in the Whity mall at Umeda in Osaka.
Tomorrow is our last full day in Japan and I am getting cranky and sad just thinking about it. We’re taking it easy tomorrow by visiting the Aquarium in Osaka and heading to our airport hotel in the evening which is conveniently located next to a Premium Outlet.