Day Seven: Nara, Land of Deer

 

A week into Japan and we’re still truckin’ forward.  The day started off with breakfast in the hotel.  It was a traditional Japanese style breakfast with miso soup, fish, and natto beans.  Natto beans are fermented soy beans and are a little gross honestly.  Apparently, even many Japanese don’t like them, however, I had to try them and they honestly don’t taste bad, it’s the smell (like old socks) and the fact that they’re very slimy, which is an understandable turnoff for those who must eat them.

After breakfast and some planning, we decided to go to Nara today, which as mentioned earlier, is known for its large deer population.  So we headed out on a 30 minute express train ride to Nara.  Upon arrival we ran into a tv station recording a group of people who were promoting a marathon which will take place this December.

Taiko drummers outside of the Nara station promoting a marathon in December.

 

After leaving the station, we headed towards Daibutsuden, the largest wooden building in the world, and also home to the largest bronze Buddha.

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A Jirikisha driver and his customers pose for a picture.

 

As said, Nara is famous for the large deer population.  Deer are known as messengers to the gods and are well respected.  It wasn’t long before we encountered this interesting sign that put into perspective just how typical seeing deer was.  In fact, it’s almost more difficult not to see deer in Nara, they’re everywhere!!  You can walk right up to them and pet them if you like.

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They take their deer seriously here.

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Deer in the street.

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Deer off the street.

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Deer everywhere!

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This one wanted some love… and food.

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Mom and Em petting a deer.

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They’re seriously everywhere lounging about.

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It’s smiling!

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This one wanted a kiss.

 

Deer are a symbol for Nara.  I could spend a week photographing these majestic creatures.  We went around petting them and even feeding them.  Many vendors along the road sell wafer-like food to give to the deer.  However, you must be prepared to feed them all, as this little girl learned.  I have a ton more of these photos, if you’d like to see more.  These creatures are so amazing, and not to mention cute!

When you give a deer a wafer…..

 

After making our way though all the deer, we got to Daibutsuden where we purified ourselves once again and made our way up to the main temple.  We also had to walk through two giant gates to get there.  Typically, shrines are Shinto, and temples are Buddhist.  Over time, a lot of traditions and rituals between the two have been mixed so many Japanese citizens are also a little mix of both.  As Mina said, all Japanese are even Christian for one day, their wedding.  They love dressing up like Westerners and getting married in a church.  These are the three major religions in Japan, Buddhist, Shinto, and Christian. 

Daibutsuden was bigger than I expected.  As I walked through the two humongous gates that proceeded the large temple, I kept thinking to myself, “Is this it?  No?  Is  this it?”  As the gates kept getting larger and larger until we finally made it to the temple, which was in fact, gargantuan.  I was surprised to find out that this is the third generation of this building and is actually 33% smaller than its original size. 

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Daibutsuden, the largest wooden building in the world.

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The Buddhist Daibutsuden temple stands tall before us.

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Daibutsu sits at the heart of the temple.

 

After walking around Daibutsuden for awhile, and of course taking a quick stop by the gift shop, we decided to stop for some lunch.  On our way back, we passed a travelling monk who was playing with one of the deer.  This was actually the second monk we passed while in Nara.  I had given him a donation earlier, as well as the first one we saw, to help him in his travels.  The travelling monks typically stand by the roads asking for money so they can continue moving across Japan for one reason or another.  When I gave him some yen, he bowed and began chanting and shaking his ringed rod around me, blessing me. 

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A travelling monk plays with a deer while accepting donations to help him continue his journey.

 

Our next stop was Kasuga Taisha shrine, a shrine in the middle of the woods which are lined with many lanterns.  It had been awhile since we had been to a shrine and I was overdue for some prayer.  We made our way across Nara to the shrine. 

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The road to Kasuga Taisha shrine.

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Lanterns line the road through the forest.

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A purification fountain outside a shrine.

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Split roads with lanterns on both paths.

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It should be, “Nara, Land of Deer and Lanterns.”

 

After visiting the shrine, we continued on to see what else we could explore in Nara.  Against better judgment, we went off the beaten path a little.  We ended up right down the street from Ukimido, a pavilion which was supposed to be cool, so we headed on over there.  Unfortunately, we passed a photography museum which no one else seemed to be interested in D:

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Thought this looked cool. 

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A young couple row  around in a pond where the Ukimido pavilion is.

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Ukimido from a bridge nearby.

 

After seeing the pavilion, we continued on to see the five-story pagoda.  Em really wanted to feed the deer so after finding the pagoda she finally got to.  Unfortunately for our entertainment, the deer there seemed pretty chill and didn’t stalk her around after she brought some food out.  The pagoda was alright, we really couldn’t get up close or anything but I was able to take a picture.  Down the street from the pagoda was another shrine where we were able to take some more pics, make another donation, and pray once again.  Plus this one had a gong! 

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The five-story pagoda.  Apparently there is also a three-story one.

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Houryu-Ji, another shrine located a block away from the five-story pagoda.

 

Nara was a pretty cool place, especially with all the deer.  I’ve always found them to be wonderful creatures and now I can finally say that I’ve been able to touch one.  It was so different being able to see them up close, as in America they’re so scared of humans.  In Nara, they’re so used to tourists and being fed that it doesn’t seem to bother them.  Just be sure to be careful if you decide to feed them, they will flock you. 

After Nara we cleaned up and went out to eat at another place in the underground mall, this time, another Italian/Japanese place.  I don’t mind the Japanese meals everyday but apparently everyone else is getting tired of it.  Either way, this was another good meal, and as you can see, I opted for the large beer lol.  I didn’t know it was going to be that big though!  Another good meal down and we’re ready to go for another day in Kyoto.

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Another Italian meal in Japan.

 

Tomorrow we plan to get up early and make our way over to Movieland and Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion.

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