Posted by: cyradisnyc | November 30, 2008

Nara

Oddly enough, I spent my last day in the Kyoto area outside of Kyoto, in Nara. I woke up extra early, spoke to James, grabbed a breakfast to eat on the train, and was on my way. I rode what I’m guessing is the equivalent of the Metro North. Nara came highly recommended as a side trip, both by Hwai-ling and the two nice ladies I met last night at the izakaya last night.

Nara seems to be sort of the lite version of the modern Japanese city. It is smaller, and more compact, but at night everything still glows with neon. Upon leaving the train station, I started walking east, towards where the majority of sites are. I managed to find Kofuku-ji. The highlights of the temple are a huge 5-story pagoda, a very interesting octogon temple, and a jaw-dropping arrangement of Buddhist sculpture, Although, Kofuku-ji seemed  scenically challenged by the large construction site in the middle of it. While the individual buildings were impressive, the overall site did not really come together for me as a result.

I next walked through Nara Park. The most notable aspect of Nara Park is that it is full of deer. Hungry, hungry deer who want to eat the deer crackers (shika-senbei) being sold by the vendors. I fed the deer, which was nice. The deer are pushy if they think you’re holding out on them, and have some delicious morsel tucked away. Deer also make the weirdest sound to communicate. I’m serious, I had no idea. I guess I’ve never really thought about how deer communicate with each other, but it is bizarre. Check out the video here: (OK, so I will edit this post and add the link once it is uploaded. Sorry!)

The next stop was the Nara National Museum. It was nice to see this museum, as we’ve worked with them in the past. I have absorbed a lot of information about Buddhist art, and it was neat to realize that I knew what I was looking at even though the labels were only in Chinese/Japanese in some galleries.

The next stop, Todai-ji, ranks up with Fushimi-Inari Taisha for me. It is jaw-dropping. It is the world’s largest wooden building, and appropriately, is stuffed full of monumental buddhist sculpture. Buddha Daibutsu rules over the Daibutsu-den, and as he is 15 meters tall, who can argue with him? He is flanked by two bodhisattvas, and in the corners are two of the myoos. (Unfortunately, not my favorite, Fudoo.) I’ve added a video of it here:

I’m finding that the video function is very helpful for showing things like this, whre my camera really just can’t handle giving a full impression. After Todai-ji, I walked up north and around to Nigatsu-do. This was absolutely beautiful. It is small, but up on the mountainside, with a terrace overlooking Todai-ji and Nara. It has many ornate bronze lanterns, along with many large paper lanterns.

I then attempted to follow the signs to find the Kasuga Taisha, but failed. I’m not sure why. I wound up wandering back through Nara Park, which is fine. I then attempted to take the bus back to the JR train station, but wound up going to the wrong train station. I walked over to the JR train station, only getting lost once on the way. (I somehow managed to walk right past the train station.)

I’m now back in the hostel, drinking sake in the cafe. I have laundry going upstairs, as I didn’t bring 12 days worth of clothing, noting that they had a washer/dryer here. Tomorrow I head down to Fukuoka, where the business part of the trip begins. Sigh. This was a wonderful vacation. More on overall impressions of Kyoto in a bit! For now, you can check out my new spiffy YouTube channel. The videos are now going to be posted here, as the Flickr uploader for Windows keeps having all sorts of weird issues.

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