Nara the Cradle of Japanese Civilization

We paid a visit to Nara, Japan’s first permeant capital. The city was founded thirteen hundred years ago as the imperial capital of Japan. There are many important sites and national treasures including some of Japan’s oldest temples. Nara is relevant in Japanese arts, poetry, literature, religion, and culture. And It’s thought to be the cradle of Japanese civilization.

We took a bus from the Nara train station with many Japanese students in their school uniform to the Nara Park.  The students were attending a school trip to visit Nara, like us.  We got off aAt the Nara park that is the spot closest to most of Nara’s main attractions.  And is home to hundreds of Japanese sika deer that roam freely around the park and on the streets in the area.  It was exciting to see a lot of deer walking around. We were surprised how tame they were when they approached us so closely.  They let us pet them.

We learned some interesting facts about the sika deer in Nara.  They were considered in Shinto faith to be divine and sacred messengers of gods. And at one time killing any of these deer was a capital offense where punishment by death followed.

While it was fun to mingle with the deer we were ever frustrated trying to get a photo selfie with the deer as they were constantly bumping their heads onto us that missed a good shot or blurred the picture.  Also, they were often trying to open our bags to pull stuff out and they searched our coat pockets, too.  We knew that they were begging and looking for some food.  None of us carried any food. Though along the sidewalks in the park, there were vendors selling deer senbei (crackers) for 150 yen. Some of us bought a bag of crackers to feed the deer. It was fascinating to watch come forth them take the crackers from us. We also learned from our Deaf Japanese guide that we could demand a deer to bow back to us for more cracker.  To make it happen, we had to bow to them first and then they would bow back.  We bowed to the deer and they bowed back.  We became ever more amused in feeding them.  At one time there were like four of us bowing at one deer.  It was hilarious to watch the may bow to one deer.   This also invited more deer to come to our spot and bowed for crackers.

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Audrey and deer bow to each other

By the time we ran out of crackers we moved toward the Nandaimon Gate, a large and antiqued wooden gate for entrance to the famous Todaiji Temple.  We learned that the Todaiji Temple is the world’s largest wooden building and that it housed the world’s largest bronze, Buddha.  It stood 15 meters tall.  Also, the Todaiji temple is one of Japan’s most significant temples that is listed a World Heritage Site. The temple was huge.  We were able to go inside the temple where we marveled at the interior design and the bronze Buddha. There was an interesting pillar with a hole in it that is said to be the same size as the bronze Buddha’s nostril. And those who can squeeze through its opening will be granted an enlightenment in their next life.  Though we thought the hole was rather too small for us to crawl through.  Instead, we watched some young students made it through.  They cheered for each other and so did we.

By the time we finished touring the temple, we saw rain outside.  It was raining very hard. We were to supposed to go visit another temple but the rain was pouring.  We decided for an early lunch and hope that the rain would slow down or stop after we finished our meal. We followed a path under trees and with an umbrella over our head to our site for lunch. Our lunch was a bowl of hot udon noodles in broth. It was perfect for a cold rainy day.  And our bowl had a smiley figure in it.

After lunch, we decided to return back to Kyoto as the rain came down continually.  We headed out in the rain with our umbrella over our head following another path through Nara park and passing the Kofukuji another old and famous temple. The temple once belonged to a powerful family clan when Nara became the imperial capital. The property had over 150 buildings bit only a few remained today.  And despite the rain, we moved over to have a look at the old five-story pagoda that is a landmark of Nara. We also stopped by the Nanendo Southern Octagonal Hall that contained more ancient treasures.  The building was octagonal and had a bright red vermillion color.

Since it was a rainy day, we didn’t want to get soaked wet and so we left Nara earlier than planned with the best memories meeting the deer and marveling the giant buddha statue.

Later in the evening, we had our Sayonara dinner where we had wonderful Japanese sake. We laughed most of the evening that our cheeks were sore the next day.

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This is our Sayonara Night.  We’re sad to to say good bye.