Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Japan Part 7 - Day Trips: Nara

Welcome to Nara, a city that was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784, and which is currently enjoying its 1300th anniversary. Can you even imagine anything being 1300 years old? The happy looking antlered fellow on all of the signs around the city has to do with the legend of the deer in Nara. The mythical god Takemikazuchi-no-Mikoto was supposed to have been carried to the city on a white deer, and as such, the deer are considered heavenly, protected animals. When I first started reading about the history of Nara, I kept coming across descriptions of how many deer are in the city, and how they are free to roam around, especially in Nara Park. I didn't quite understand the extent of this statement though, until I saw it for myself.

The deer truly are everywhere. Since our trip to Nara coincided with what was the brightest, sunniest day of our trip, they were mostly just lounging in the shade.

That is, when they weren't wandering around looking for someone to feed them. These deer are no fools. They know that people = food, as well as that pockets and bags often contain food and other edible items.

While the worst thing we saw was a deer taking a big bite out someone's map, it's true that the deer are, in fact, still wild animals, and these signs were all over the place as a reminder of this.

Besides the deer, Nara is home to some very old, very beautiful buildings and art. The above image is of Todai-ji, also known as the Great Eastern Temple. In addition to being the largest wooden building in the world, it is also the home of Daibutsu, the largest bronze statue of the Buddha in the world.

Here's another view of Todai-ji, from the front.

Like all temples, it is customary to wash your hands before visiting.

And then you meet the beautiful, incredibly impressive, 49.1 ft. tall Daibutsu. It's difficult to really get a sense of the scale of this Buddha from a photograph, but you certainly can see why it would need to be housed in such a massive temple. Daibutsu's ears alone measure 8.3 ft. And not only is the Buddha himself worth visiting, but like most temple complexes, it contains a lovely garden as well.

Just can't get enough? Check out some more pictures on flickr.

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