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Golden Week pt.3 - Nara

Written on: Saturday June 14th, 2008

A journal entry from: Japan

So, Nara is a lovely, not-too-big city fairly close to Kyoto. Nara was the capital of Japan for hundreds of years before Kyoto. So, it houses some lovely historical and cultural sites.

The best part was that pretty much of all the major temples, museums and such, are part of a giant park that covers several city blocks. Called Nara Deer Park, it's the home, as you might guess, of a herd or two of small deer. These animals are like pets, but not completely tame, so you still have to be careful. "Deer cookies" are sold at stands throughout the park. It was the opposite of everything I'm used to in dealing with "wild" animals.

So, I spend a great sunny, hot afternoon wandering around this park. I passed by the famous five-story pagoda, and went to Kofuku-ji temple, and was lucky enough to have come on one of the very few days that the Northern Octagonal Hall - with some ancient statuary inside - was open.

I wandered a few blocks more though the park to find the busy street lined with shops and food stalls that led to Nara's most famous spot - Todai-ji Temple, which houses the Daibutsu, a giant statue of Buddha. I was really impressed when I stepped inside the grounds and saw the building for the first time. It was huge, and full of people, and rather grand. The Buddha statue itself was cast hundreds of years ago, and a statue that huge was quite a difficult task back then - it would be even now. One of the wooden supporting pillars is itself famous, too. It is said that if you can squeeze through the hole drilled in the base of the pillar, you are guanteed a spot in heaven. It's easiest to get through when you're a kid, so many of the peope in the long queue were kids. It looked like they were having fun crawling through, and everyone was taking pictures.

Making a circle of the park, I came to Kasuga Taisha Shrine, and stopped for a look around. I wandered back through the park and got an sno-cone style treat on the way back. It was a great afternoon.