I wasn’t sure what to expect of Nara. Will had told me it had probably his favorite temple in Japan, ok. But I hadn’t heard much about this city, didn’t know much about it.
We woke to some spring showers that day, grabbed our umbrellas and headed off. Thankfully the rain made for fewer tourists out and about. As we walked toward Nara Park, Will started speaking cryptically:
“I wonder if they’ll still be there, with the rain….”
Will: “They’re usually walking around….”
Me: “….Like, park rangers?”
Will: “Yeah … something like that. You’ll see.”
It didn’t take long to discover what he was talking about. As soon as we turned into the park….
DEER! Oh my goodness. How FUN. That’s what I thought at first, anyway. Yeah, they’re cute. The park has a large population of “wild” deer, and tourists can buy crackers and feed them. What inevitably happens is that kids get really excited, start feeding the deer, then the deer gang up and start nipping and chasing them for more, and you see the kids running away screaming or in tears. Hahaha. It’s kinda funny. There are signs throughout the park warning you that the deer can get aggressive (note the old lady fighting for her purse). Also, there’s deer poop everywhere. Watch where you step!
Rain and poop aside, it’s a nice, big park with several ponds, temples and a couple of museums.
After a bit of walking through the park, we arrived at our destination, the Todai-ji Temple. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, built in 752 to be the head of Japan’s Buddhist temples, and houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana (according to Wiki) at 15 meters tall. Oh yeah — and its main hall, the Daibutsuden, is the world’s largest wooden building, even though its present reconstruction from 1692 is only two-thirds of its original size. Amazing. You just have to see it to believe it.
That last picture is of a large pillar that, apparently, if you crawl through the hole — which is the same size as one of the Daibutsu’s (big buddha) nostrils — you’ll reach enlightenment in the next life. It’s so small, really only children can crawl through it. You should see their parents egging them on, of course!
Will partly likes this temple because it’s tucked away; you have to walk through two gates and don’t really see it until you’re in front of it. A hidden gem.
On a side note, Nara sells a bunch of cute, deer related merchandise and even has a mascot of sorts:
For more photos of Nara, go here.
Up next: Sea creatures, Osaka Castle, cherry blossoms along the river & pet owls in Osaka.