Wednesday, January 23, 2013

japan day 9 -- nara: kasuga-taisha and kasuga-yama primeval forest

the nice lady at the tourist information booth didn't specifically circle kasuga-taisha on the nara walking tour map.  i only knew to visit because i read somewhere on the internet about the kasuga-yama primeval forest and i told pete that this place is my must-see in nara.  it got me at "primeval".  and i'm completely fascinated by old-growth forests.

and the forest was truly lovely:  old gnarly trees, thousands of lanterns lining the paths, moss growing freely over stones and the sound of our feet on gravel.

kasuga-taisha is a shinto shrine that was built in 768.  it's a real beauty and known for its 3000 lanterns, 2000 stone lanterns and 1000 hanging bronze lanterns, that represent the 3000 kasuga shrines in japan.

this tree (left) is so old, see the description below

Monday, January 21, 2013

japan day 9 - nara: todai-ji

if there is one historical place to visit in nara, todai-ji would be it.  it's quite breathtaking and its scale reminds of me the feeling i had when i first saw angkor wat.  some quick facts about this temple:  while todai-ji is the largest wooden structure in the world, its current width is 2/3 of the original structure.  the original temple burned down twice, once in 1180 and again in 1567.  the buddha inside is the vairocana buddha, is made of bronze and is the largest one of its kind.

pete in front of today-ji and me leaning against a column at the gate into todai-ji
do you like my leg warmers?

incense in front of the entrance to burn for good karma

the vairocana buddha or daibutsu (in japanese)

daibutsu (left) and an accompanying buddha statue (right)

on the right, i thought the japanese cypress columns were just plain cool and impressive

Sunday, January 20, 2013

japan day 9 -- nara: kofuku-ji

the temple tour continues....

we visited three temples on our day trip to nara.  the tourist information booth at the JR nara train station provided us with a walking map and a suggested route with a visit to todai-ji as the most important.  the entire route is meant to take 3 hours.  the first stop on the walking tour map was kofuku-ji.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

japan day 9 -- the deer of nara park

i didn't know that we'd encounter so much wildlife during our trip.  the deer of nara park were so interesting (and abundant) that, similar to the snow monkeys, they deserve their own post.  

while in the kansai area, we took a day trip to nara, a former capital of japan.  similar to kyoto, nara has a number of historic sites and temples to visit and is only about 50 minutes away from kyoto via an express train.  pete told me about the deer beforehand, but i was somewhat skeptical to the fact that they freely roam the park.  he was right, however; they're everywhere.

it seems that the local nara religious/spiritual culture is intertwined with the deer.  the deer are regarded as sacred and therefore protected (there's even staff to sweep up their poop from the walkways).  their likeness is carved into stone lanterns.  people feed them.  people try to pet them too.

they're docile and cute, and i can't help think of bambi.  but some of them can get pretty aggressive.  and people are warned (see sign below).  they bite.  they kick.  they try to butt you and knock you down... especially if you have one of those deer cookies in your pocket or even paper in your hand.

they're badass and they know it (left).  a buck (right) stole some paper from a closed restaurant to eat
stone carving of a deer (left) and a particularly menacing stare from a buck (right)
a doe sniffing for food 
a doe cleaning her fawn
this is what happens when you try to feed them.  another pic of the warning as a reminder.
see my leg in the background?  i'm walking away quickly from this one.

Monday, January 14, 2013

japan day 8 -- kyoto: ninna-ji

our hotel also recommended that we visit ninna-ji.  turns out that ninna-ji is where the omuro school of flower arrangement is headquartered.