Saturday, September 27, 2014

Nara, Japan

Nara, a city located about 20 miles east of Osaka, was the capital of Japan from 710-784 AD.  Right next to our hotel in Osaka was a station with a direct train to Nara.  Since Osaka didn't appear to be much of a site-seeing city, on Tuesday, September 9, 2014, while Bob and his work associate, Jack, spent the day visiting customers, I explored Nara.  This relaxed city is known for the deer that wonder around it's streets and parks.  According to legend, a god riding upon a white deer came into Nara to protect the capital city, and ever since then the deer have been considered sacred.


Kofukuji Temple and it's 5-story pagoda were the first things I saw as I began my stroll around Nara Park.  The pagoda, which was originally built in 730 AD, was restored in 1426, and is the 2nd tallest in Japan at about 167 feet in height.  


 
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While walking toward the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, I met a 20-year old young man from Taiwan who was traveling by himself.  He asked me to take some photos of himself with the deer and we became friends for the day.  He is Christian and we discussed our respective religions as we toured the sites in Nara together.  The shrine is in the middle of a beautiful forest, and is surrounded by thousands of gorgeous lanterns.  We didn't go into the shine, but just walked through the forest.  The area was absolutely stunning!


Todaiji Temple, built the year 752 AD, was the largest wooden structure in the world until 1998, and within it's walls is the largest bronze Buddha in the world.  It stands 50 feet tall and weighs 550 tons!  At the entrance to the temple is a rather creepy looking figure which I believe is a god of medicine and healing.  Several smaller Buddhas and other "guardian gods" are also housed within the structure.


Hsiao Yung Peng, my new "forever friend"  (that is literally what his Chinese last name means) and I visited the Nara Museum, where I was only allowed to take a couple of outdoor photos, and then we headed to town toward our respective return train stations.


Following my map to the station, I noticed a "burial mound" site and wondered if the Japanese bury their dead the same way as Koreans.  You know how much I love the burial mounds throughout the Korean peninsula - truly one of my favorite things about Korea!  Bob says I'm just a little morbid, but I do love cemeteries.  What I saw was not really what I expected, but it was nonetheless, very interesting.

 

Jack took us to a Chinese restaurant for dinner that night and the following morning we boarded the bullet train back to Tokyo.  It was a clear day, and I was really hoping for a glimpse of Mt. Fuji, the nearly symmetrical and tallest mountain in Japan.  At nearly 12,400 feet in height, the active volcano  is an impressive landmark.  But as we approached it's location near Tokyo, clouds again shrouded our view.  Jack kindly shared with us a couple of photos he had taken from the train on a previous trip.


 This is as close as I got to "being there"!






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