Japan Day 7: Nara

Today’s first destination was to cover a place in Kyoto which we couldn’t cover yesterday: Fushimi Inari Taisha. Had a bad start to the day as we ran into a wrong train(an express train) as we did not want to be missing any train. In the end, the train skips past our station. Luckily, I asked one of the locals on board and we got off being things went awfully wrong. That’s some time wasted. The complex at the shrine itself is very big. If you had been to other shrines before, the shrine itself isn’t very different, just that the guardian statues are foxes instead(this is the case for any shrines enshrining an Inari deity). The main attraction of this shrine is the trail behind the shrine’s main building. The trail is covered by lots and lots of torii gates, hence the name Senbon Torii(a thousand torii gates). Be warned, this trail includes a lot of stair-climbing, about 1 to 2 hours’ worth of it. Along the way, you can see numerous smaller and less known shrines. From what I heard and what I experienced, it can get eerie and scary if you attempt it at night(I went in the morning). The wind is very cooling as you go higher and higher. Nothing much else to see: the only thing worth seeing are the many torii gates. Took about an hour plus before leaving for Nara.

When we first arrived in Nara, the place seemed like another quiet place. Well, not until we reached Kofukuji temple which is in the vicinity of Nara Park(Nara Park is very big). This was when we first saw real-life wild deers in the streets!!! There are also stalls selling senbei to feed the deers. Beware that they a lot of them will keep coming after you when they see that you have their favourite food or anything that looks like food(my map got destroyed when one of them licked on my map, thinking it was food. Aww…). Ok, more on deers later. There weren’t really much to see in Kofukuji temple as the main buildings were under reconstruction. The only things to see were a 5-storey pagoda and a small building for prayers. Had the honour of helping a pretty young Japanese lady to take a picture of her with the pagoda but didn’t manage to take a picture with her(I forgot to ask since it did not cross my mind at that time T.T). Wasted opportunity…

At Todaiji, even more deers(it’s just next to the main part of Nara Park). Seeing them makes me feel good inside: they are just so adorable and yet gentle creatures(they can get aggressive and they can fight with each other over food too). Ok, so Todaiji is the biggest wooden building in the world, and it has the biggest Buddha in the world(if I’m not wrong). We spent quite a bit of time in there, although there wasn’t much things worth mentioning, to sum it up. After which, I took a short walk in Nara Park, near Todaiji temple.

Last, was a visit to Kasuga Shrine, which is closely tied to the reason why deers are seen as messengers of the god/deity in Nara. This one, instead of many torii gates in Fushimi Inari Taisha, has a lot of those stone lamps used in shrines. Didn’t go to the inside as it was getting late and for once, I did not feel like paying to go in there and see. However, I think it is still worth taking some time to drop by, since Kofukuji, Todaiji, and this shrine are quite near each other(all within Nara Park itself. You can imagine how big Nara Park is). I’m not sure if it’s just nice or unfortunate, it rained when I was on my way out of the shrine grounds and I ended up taking the wrong way as I tried to hurry back to where my parents were waiting for me. Had to ask a Japanese couple(in Japanese) for directions(can’t understand most of their answer, but still got the idea that I went the wrong way). Thankfully it didn’t take long before getting back on track. Can’t really bear to leave Nara. It’s a really nice place to go, I think it’s really because of the deers… Well, that’s 50% of my time in Japan completed. Time really flies when you are having fun, though trying to get around and figuring out directions was never fun.

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