Time for another day trip: this time to Nara, the old old capital of Japan. For reference, Tokyo is the current capital. The immediately prior capital was Kyoto, and Nara preceded that. We have heard that Nara is a great spot for a day trip from Kyoto.
The train ride took us about 40 minutes, and immediately on arrival we found the tourist information booth, where a representative pointed us in the right direction.
We headed east, through the main part of town. The first site we were expecting was the five story pagoda. The walk wasn’t long, and the streets were relatively quiet despite the density of buildings. I was wondering when we would see it, and then the city disappeared in front of us and became a park.
We climbed up the stairs to our left and passed a cleansing basin. The idea of cleansing prior to worship is something we see in numerous faiths, Catholicism (holy water!), Buddhism, and Islam.
In front of us was the pagoda, its graceful curves and points aiming scalloping the sky. The spire that you see is structurally important, balancing the weight of the upper eaves. Incidentally, we don’t get to enter pagodas – at least none that I have seen.
Passing beyond this sanctuary, we are well into the parks on the east side of town, or what I have started referring to as “the deer district.” Nara is known for her roaming deer.
They are friendly creatures, wandering through parks and across the streets and we are able to go up and pet them.
OK – apparently they aren’t always friendly.
Continue to the east, we pass the national museum, and into deeply shaded paths. Stone covered lanterns guide our way, bedecked in verdant green moss and grass.
This area is solemn, sacred even.
There are temples, of course, but they are second in my mind to the overall experience.
Beyond the temple, we have turned our footsteps north, passing families with children bedecked in traditional garb, and passing vendors selling cakes to feed the deer. We continue on our way eventually finding lunch.
The rains came then, and with them the cold. Have I mentioned that I should have packed at least one sweatshirt? When will I learn?!?!
Our meandering footsteps eventually brought us to the last set of temples in the region, standing in front of a pond.
Behind us is Daibutsu-Den hall, which, according to the guidebook is the largest wooden structure in the world. Clearly, I have now visited two structures claiming this honor during this trip, and have no idea who to believe.
Within stands the Great Buddha, one of the largest bronze statues in the world.
Elsewhere in the hall are other wooden carvings. Spectacular.
With the chill settling in, we decided to head back from Nara, getting off of the train briefly in Uji, known for its Matcha green tea. We found a tea house near the station and sat for quite some time sipping our tea and eating a sweet. Frankly neither of us loved the tea, but it was a very nice way to pass the time.
Finally we returned to the train and Kyoto, where the dinner hour was finally approaching.