Saturday, April 5

Kyoto for Hanami: Vol. 2 "Nara" or "Melissa is a Celebrity"

This may or may not have actually been our train. But it's pretty.

Monday found Melissa and I en route to Nara, about half an hour outside Kyoto. We managed to wind up on the Rapid train, which was fun, but 500 yen extra. Why was it fun, you ask? Why, because we got to ride on the second floor! Maybe not all that exciting to some of you, but it was my first time on the upper level of any mode of transportation. Except a boat...

This family starts to realize the peril they have unwittingly put themselves in by purchasing shikazembei...

After getting a map from a most helpful and cute lady in the tourist information center, we made our way to Kofukuji (Temple). Now, previously I had seen pictures of the deer for which Nara is famous (that and the Buddhas and temples and stuff), but I thought they were contained in a certain park or other special Deer Area. But noooo, considered sacred, they are free to wander about as they will, lolling about alone, bounding across park lanes in packs or harassing children with shikazembei (rice crackers made specifically for the deer).

Joseph gets into the tourist spirit in front of the Five-Storied Pagoda at Kofukuji.
It sure is windy, isn't it, Joseph!



After leaving Kokufuji we started towards Himuro Shrine. On the way, we were stopped by a young man who politely asked: "Excuse me, is your name Melissa?" Of course, he recognized her from her blog, and we started up a conversation. Sam, a foreign exchange student at a high school here in Japan, and his father, Steve, turned out to be two interesting, enjoyable fellows, and we were happy to tour Nara with them for the rest of the day.

Himuro Jinja

Joseph poses with his new friends, Steve and Sam at Himuro Shrine.

Deer on a Pole

And speaking of friends, when we first arrived in Nara, Joseph tried desperately to win the affections of the local deer. Unfortunately, since he had no sembei to offer, they were not interested.

Never one to give up, Joseph found some folks at Todaiji Temple that were kindred spirits. "Of the Race of Joseph", if you will.

On from Himuro, we went into Todaiji, originally constructed to be the General Head Temple of all provincial temples in Japan, and currently the largest wooden building in the world.
Unfortunately, it's so big that my 50mm lens was unable to properly capture it all...

Drawing one of the giant statues guarding the gate at Todaiji.

Octagonal Lantern at Todaiji

Mini-Buddha around the Big Buddha

Deer a Lo Loco

After Todaiji was Kasuga Taisha, famous for its bronze hanging lanterns.

Walking back from Kasuga Shrine, we found this lovely lawn... and some wonderful deer-pellet scented sakura.
Smell it. I mean really smell it...

To our delight, these deer paused on the other side of the road, waiting until the "Walk" sign turned green. Then, a line of 8 or 10 of them leisurely paraded across the street.

After a long day of traipsing about Nara, we were glad to be out of the cold wind and in comfortable train seats, after some 'Bucks and conversation with the Porters (Thank you, Steve!).

Tomorrow: An Unforgettable Experience(s) in Gion


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