Friday, June 19, 2009

The Messenger's of the Gods

A Place of Magic - Nara

Day 11

When I was a child (maybe 6 or 7) my parents took me to a deer park in Southern California. I loved it. I remember it said it was loosely based on a deer park in Nara Japan.

Well the Japanese Deer Park in Southern California is long gone, but the deer in Nara still thrive, and one of my life long goals was realized when I finally got to go see Nara's Deer Park.

To get there from Kyoto takes about 45 minutes by train. It is a lovely trip with picturesque Japanese countryside and farms (which was a very pleasant change from the industrial dreck we had seen on the other train trips here so far).

Nara proved to be a very friendly place. Residents are justifiably proud of their city. One elderly man and came up to me while I was admiring the main pagoda and (in pretty good english) pointed out the special features and fine points of its construction (he knew what he was talking about). In the US I'd have expected such an approach to be followed by a request for a hand out. Here, he was just proud of his city and wanted to make sure we came to love it too.

And aside from the fact that we found that every school age child in Japan was also visiting Nara, it seemed pretty laid back.

Nara has a pretty expansive history serving as Japan's capital in the 700's. It is Japan's second UNESCO World Heritage site due to its many amazing temples, pagoda's, and shrines.

After leaving the train station we walked about 5 minutes and the City street peeled back and the main city park started to emerge. So did the deer. The story of the deer is that the mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital. So the deer in Nara are regarded as heavenly animals sent to protect the city and country. Hence, there are thousands of tame deer in Nara.

The Deer are Friendly and Seemingly Everywhere

You Can Approach and Sit Down Next to Them

Close-up Photographs?
No Worries

All in all it is pretty magical. But....if you break down and buy the "deer cookies" they sell, well then the deer become much more attentive. The locals say the deer will bow for a cookie. None was willing to bow for me.

The Deer Especially Like Maps
(Right Out of Your Pocket)

Scratching Behind Their Ears is a Hit

They Apparently Do Have Their Bad Days
(We Loved the "I'm Pissed" Heat Rays on the Sign)

Making our way into the park we came to the first of many temples and the Kofuku-ji Pagoda. It is a five level Pagoda that has survived Nara's many earthquakes.

Kofuku-ji Temple

Like all the pagoda's we encountered in Japan, it was not open to visitors. We then made our way to the Todai-ji Temple to see its giant Buddha. The Todai-ji we see today is the third temple to be rebuilt after various fires. This temple is the world's largest wooden building and it is actually 1/3 smaller than the temple it replaced.

Kids and Deer Everywhere on the Way to Todai-ji

First Whole View of Todai-ji

The World's Largest Wooden Structure

You Have to Stand Back a football Field
to Fit it in a Photograph

Inside the Great Buddha is also Overwhelming in Size

(Cast in Bronze - At One Time it Was Clad in Gold!)

One of the main Column in the rear of the Temple has a hole in its base. School kids climb through it for good luck.

Squeezing Through The Hole in the Column

Meticulously maintained grounds are indicative of this temples on-going place in the Buddhist world.

Flawless Green Lawns

Rickshaw Rides Were a Hit for Visitors

Proud Mama and Her Little One

A storm was rolling in and we were really hungry, so we made our way to the station and had a very nice lunch. It was now time to return to Kyoto.

When we actually got back to Kyoto Miss M took a side trip to the Isetan Department Store basement to load up on "dinner".

All Neatly Packaged and Priced Right
Dinner from the Food Stalls at the Isetan Department Store

It was a great visit to Nara and a very special day in Japan.

It is a nice way to conclude my posts from Japan.

We start our long journey home on Saturday. Then its back to work for me on Monday.

Can you say "jet lag"?

Roadboy's Travels © 2009

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