Loading Map...

Nara day trip

Written on: Tuesday February 16th, 2010

A journal entry from: Japan 2010

We got up a little earlier today for a train from Kyoto to Nara. We managed to get a "regular express" train (without any of the super-express surcharges!) that took almost 1 hour to make the journey. This turned out to be one of our favourite days in Japan. Jack was so "chipper", he would even wittingly pose for photos with the deer.

Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan, and it is second only to Kyoto in terms of UNESCO World Heritage sights (so, lots of stuff for visitors to look at!). It also has a population of "tame" deer that are allowed to wander around the big park (Nara-koen) in the centre of the city.

First off, we fed some deer. This was a steep learning curve, the deer are nice, tame, and docile when you aren't holding food, but as soon as you buy some biscuits to feed them with (vendors are dotted throughout the park), then it's a different story. I fared okay this time, but I saw a poor Japanese woman get swarmed (or is it mobbed?) by the deer. Then, it was a short walk to Kofuku-ji, a temple from 1143AD!!! We also saw Japan's second tallest pagoda (beaten by Kyoto's Toji by only a few cms!). 

Then, we walked a fair bit to get to Todai-ji. Todai-ji is the world's biggest wooden building (though it used to be up to 30% bigger, before being burned down and rebuilt in the 1700s), and it houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha. We always seemed to enter temple grounds by the side entrance, and this time was no exception, so we missed running the gauntlet of hungry deer on the way in.

I spied a sweet potato man or Yakiimo (which I had been looking for since I arrived in Japan - a month ago - after reading about their mythical powers on: www.quirkyjapan.or.tv). It was risky, but I had to try one! As soon as I bought it, I started being chased by deer. And, I couln't eat my baked sweet potato any faster as it was hot! Jack had to buy deer biscuits to act as a diversion! Then, I decided that I wanted to feed the cute deer again. This time, I got bitten on the bum, not once, but TWICE! After that, I cooled on the deer.

We then went inside Todai-ji. It was really big (duh). Inside, one of its wooden pillars has a small child-sized hole that people wriggle through "for luck". I wanted to try, but whenever I got in, I would get claustrophobic and afraid of being a silly Australian stuck in the pillar and crawl out the way I came in. First, a middle aged Japanese lady showed me her going through the whole and tried to help pull/push me through, but I freaked out. Then, two other Australians saw us loitering at the pillar and egged me on, but I chickened out again. Then, we saw a Japanese guy kind of my size get through, so I tried a third time and got through! I felt brave, and all day afterwards I felt like I'd conquered a fear. Later, I found bruises on both my hips that took weeks to heal. At the time, I didn't consider what would happen if I was in the hole in the event of an earthquak, which was good.

Afterwards, we checked out the other temples in Nara-koen. The best was Kasuga Taisha, a shrine founded in the 8th century (!!!). All the approaches to the shrine were lined with 100s of lanterns. It must look magical when they are all lit at night.

On the way back to the station, we stopped in the Nara National Museum, as we had time to spare. But only 1 exhibition room was open! We looked around a few of the shopping streets near the station, Nara seemed like a cute little town (though it's probably a huge city!).