Day 74: Nara

A huge day today, little did we know. We day tripped out of Kyoto towards the ancient capital of Japan, pre-Edo, pre-Meiji… the UNESCO inscribed city of Nara.

Le Grand Voyage II – Leg 2C (Kyoto)

  • • Day 74 of LGV II. 17th day in Japan, 10th day in Kyoto
  • • 620 JPY (7.45 CAD) one way from Kyoto Kintetsu, Express, 50 minutes, 42 km
  • • 15.9 km, 21 396 steps (the girls registered more, for several reasons, not the least, short legs.)
  • • 4 Temples and a shopping district

 

A 20 minute power walk brought us to the Kintetsu line station, and 45 minute or so train ride right into Nara. The trip is uneventful, and brings you through some rather bland semi-industrial/suburban landscapes. Nothing to write home about, which is too bad, because I love train rides.

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UNESCO Heritage

Nara is a UNESCO city, an example of cultural heritage that is important to all of humanity. There are eight unique sites that form the basis of the designation, and we, in our eight hours, visited four of these. Our choice is almost always to spend quality time at sites, and not rush to check them off. A day is not enough with our approach to touristing.
 
Many of these monuments have been damaged or destroyed in their thousand year history, but they’ve been lovingly and faithfully restored in tune with a natural environment that truly defines this place.
 
 

Oh Deer!

Oh Deer! The first thing you notice, walking up to Nara Park, are the free roaming, semi domesticated Sika Deer. It’s the most amazing thing to see, and so uncomfortable for me, coming from the “don’t feed the wildlife” mantra of the National Parks. But 150 JPY buys you some some peanut buttery crackers to do just that, and we did. Just that.

As an experience, take it or leave it. Kind of fun, and Elliotte loved it.

3/5

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Todai-Ji Temple

This is a huge building dating to the mid 700s CE. And it houses the one of the world’s biggest (or perhaps *the* biggest, it is unclear) bronze Buddhas in the world. Not pricey, just to get in; at 500 JPY, are you going to come all this way and not pay to see the big Buddha?

You enter through a huge gate, pay for your ticket, and then continue through a second  impressive wooden gate and tower complex. Inside, you get the bronze Buddha, the Vairocana, and is flanked by two guardians, Komokuten and Bishamonten, both impressive in their own right.

Something you have to do, and very worth it.

4/5

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Nigatsu-do

UP the hill from Todai-Ji is a complex of buildings dedicated to the eleven-faced Bodhisattva, Kannon. I’ll admit to not knowing the fine nuances of Buddhism to be able to explain it, but Hey, Wiki! The sights are grand here, and teh connectedness of the buildings – covered stairs and pavilions – make for some very nice photography. It dates from 752, but was destroyed and rebuilt in 1667, which speaks a bit to the pain we all feel about the Notre Dame (I write this on April 16, 2019, the day of the fire).

And of course, it is one of the eight monuments responsible for the UNESCO designation of Nara.

Loved it here – 5/5

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Kasuga-Taisha

You pass through a wondrous forest, which together with this shrine, are another of the monuments responsible for Nara’s UNESCO designation. And more (very beautiful, with HUGE cedars) forest mean more deer as well. Which is fine, because they weren’t overly obnoxious to us. (Apparently, you are to bow to them before you feed them, and they bow back… learned behaviour or ingrained genetics? You tell me!). The temple itself is brilliant in its bright orange paint.

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The key standout here, aside from the bright orange-red colours, are the many hundreds of bronze lanterns, which are very photogenic.

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Kofuko-Ji

Built in 669, moved to here from Kyoto in 710 CE… that’s enough by itself to blow your mind. It’s been destroyed and reconstructed many times over its thousand years of existence, and that fact takes away some of the sting I’m feeling about Notre Dame. It was the fourth of the UNESCO monuments we were able to visit.

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But the highlight surely must be the five story pagoda, the second highest in all of Japan.

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The end.

This was a day trip. And although we like exploring temples, we absolutely love just walking around making discoveries. We had hoped to get down tot he western shrines of Toshodai-Ji and Yakushi-Ji, but by the time we were ready, it was already past four. Instead, we wandered the shopping district.

The shopping district of Nara is called Higashimuki Shotengai, and is a covered, outdoor pavillion that spans many blocks, and offers much of the same stuff of Nishiki or kanazawa Central.

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We walked through and did a big circle through the Noborioji Yonbancho neighbourhood, and back into the park. It was teh golden hour, and therefor the napping hour, so we enjoyed a few moments of downtime while Elliotte played with the deer.

Let that idea sink in a moment.

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In short, and summarize, a perfect day. Sunny, warm, and with lots of cherry blossoms still adorning the trees. Credit to La Fille ™ who put Nara on the radar for me. We each have our little planning niches, and Ti put this on our must-see list. As for so many such places, there was more to do here than we had time for. Or rather, for which we could make time. We could have started a little earlier, played with fewer deer, wandered more direct streets to the west to get to those temples, but instead we took the slow plodding route.

Still, four our of eight UNESCO monuments, and we were feeling good about our day.

 

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