Monday, July 3, 2017

Nara

20160421_102427_7D_IMG_34092


Often it's the part of trip that we least plan that delight us the most, perhaps because our experiences aren't fraught with expectations, perhaps because it's an instance of all the stars aligning, who knows, but the little town of Nara was one of those surprises. Our time in Japan was running out, so we decided to take a detour on our last travel day and spend some of it in Nara, which we had read and been told was beautiful. Sometimes it can be a mistake to add on a destination in an attempt to suck the marrow, but this time it worked out, and we were able to see another little corner of this wonderful country in the time we had left.  Nara lies about an hour East of Osaka on a commuter rail spoke, and we headed there first thing in the morning, after we checked out of our hotel in Osaka,  We were able to store our luggage at the Tourist Info building just outside the Nara station.  It was going to rain off and on all day, but we found that the TI had loaner umbrellas, which is a great idea.  We each picked one, and headed out to the nearby temple park complex.

20160421_100620_G9X_IMG_0849
20160421_105456_7D_IMG_34140

We saw more deer in Nara than we’d seen in Miyajima, including several different herds in the park.  We also saw a deer fountain (the water tumbles from a piece of bamboo in the deer’s mouth).

20160421_101720_G9X_IMG_085620160421_101502_G9X_IMG_0852

As the morning went on the rain picked up, but the scenery became even prettier with the increased contrast of rain-soaked trees and soil.  As long as you picked the path that the crowds and their view-blocking umbrellas didn't take, that is.

20160421_101609_G9X_IMG_0854
20160421_101559_G9X_IMG_0853
20160421_101704_G9X_IMG_0855

Many of the paths in the park were lined with stone lamp posts with paper-paned windows.  Those posts were largely capped with moss.

20160421_102430_7D_IMG_34093
20160421_102631_G9X_IMG_0865

The paths led from one shrine to another; most shrines had a purification fountain nearby, so that you could wash before entering the shrine.

20160421_102728_G9X_IMG_0868
20160421_102704_7D_IMG_34102
20160421_102947_G9X_IMG_0874
20160421_103041_7D_IMG_34112
20160421_103406_7D_IMG_34115
20160421_103511_G9X_IMG_0885

These were the most adorable fortune Nara deer available for purchase at the shrines. While they were cute, we opted to take photos instead of buying one.  At the counter nearby, we got a closer look at something we'd seen at other shrines in Japan, which was people who were collecting stamps from each shrine.  Japanese tourists would carry a book of blank pages, and in some locations, they would stamp the book themselves.  Here, they handed the book to someone at the counter, who very carefully stamped each book and handed it back.

20160421_103534_G9X_IMG_0886

20160421_103521_7D_IMG_34120

20160421_103654_G9X_IMG_0890

20160421_103700_7D_IMG_3412620160421_103946_7D_IMG_34130

20160421_104307_7D_IMG_34136

20160421_104543_7D_IMG_34137

20160421_110046_7D_IMG_34146

The Todai-ji Temple was the largest we visited, with an enormous bronze statue of Buddha inside. The building itself, and all of the statutes inside were worth the trip alone.  The rain had really picked up by now.

20160421_113601_7D_IMG_34156
20160421_113625_G9X_IMG_0902
20160421_113751_7D_IMG_34157
20160421_114326_7D_IMG_34171

20160421_114333_G9X_IMG_0910

The statute below was carved out of wood, one of a pair which guarded the gate outside the temple. The had been moved in out of the elements for their protection, although they looked fierce enough to ward off any weather.
20160421_114446_G9X_IMG_0914
20160421_114531_G9X_IMG_0915
20160421_114827_7D_IMG_34188
20160421_114940_G9X_IMG_0922
20160421_114955_G9X_IMG_0923
20160421_115331_G9X_IMG_0928
20160421_115342_7D_IMG_34200
20160421_115514_G9X_IMG_0930
20160421_115528_7D_IMG_34207

The big bronze Buddha was quite a sight, stretching up 49 feet, 2 inches tall.

20160421_120156_G9X_IMG_0933

According to Wikipedia the face of the Buddha is 17 feet tall alone.

20160421_120327_7D_IMG_34221

After bidding the Buddha farewell we wandered back toward the train station in the rain, peeking down alleyways and gardens as we tried to get a glimpse of everyday life, at least as much as you can as a foreign tourist.

20160421_124230_G9X_IMG_0937
20160421_124403_7D_IMG_34234
20160421_124551_LG_G4_0421161245a

While many of the cities had a unique design for their manhole covers, Nara's and Kyoto's were the prettiest we saw.

20160421_125731_G9X_IMG_0940
20160421_125941_7D_IMG_34236
20160421_130326_LG_G4_0421161303a

And just like that our magical interlude was over--we were back at the train station and on our way back to Tokyo via Kyoto on the bullet train.

20160421_152742_LG_G4_0421161527

Went spent two more days in Tokyo, but we already covered both legs of Tokyo in one of our first posts on Japan. It's taken us a while to get through these posts, but we loved our journey through Japan so much that it's definitely still a near memory. Hopefully we'll get back there some day. But since our return from Japan we've taken trips to Maui and Havana, so we have lots more adventures to share!