Sunday 16th April 2017 – Nara
This morning we met up with our Exodus tour group and our tour leader Meg in the reception of the hotel before our first group trip to Nara the first permanent capital of Japan. Nara is 35 minutes from Kyoto but with eight world heritage sites, it is second only to Kyoto for amazing things to see so is worth the trip.
Our first stop was a wander through the Nara-Koen park where we stopped for a quick picnic, and a look at the deer that wander freely through the park hassling tourist and locals (and particularly children) for food. They were considered to be messengers of the gods and today enjoy life as national treasures, being fed ‘Shika Sembei’ – small round flat biscuits that they must consume by the boatload.
We carried on through the park to the Todai-Ji which houses the Daibutsu (Great Buddha), guarded by two fierce-looking Nio Guardians. Todai-ji itself is the largest wooden building in the world, so pretty big, and is held up by huge central posts.
In the bottom of one of the posts is a hole through the base, which is supposedly exactly the same size as the nostrils of the Daibutsu, and guarantees enlightenment in the next life if you can squeeze through. We were enlightened enough in this life to know we weren’t going to fit…
We carried on through the parks which were full of cherry trees dropping blossom, to Kasuga Taisha, a huge red shrine with hundreds of lanterns, some of them displayed lit in a dark walk way. A wedding was going on at the time, so some of the area was closed but we got a look at the bride coming up the path in her white gown and huge white hat – apparently this is to hide any evidence of horns she might have on her head.. yup no idea!
Then on to Nigatsu-do, which is a large wooden building with a huge verandah with great views across the park.
Nara done, we got back on the train back to Kyoto and stopped at Fushimi Inari which was great to see a place we’d seen in rain and morning light in late afternoon light and dry. The crowds weren’t huge so we were able get some great shots of the gates without the crowds of people we’d seen on Saturday.
That evening a small group of us went for dinner at the Cube on the 11th floor of Kyoto station. This is a whole floor of lots of different restaurants, but best of all the station itself is amazing! There is a huge flight of stairs that runs from the 6th floor to the 11th where every step is full of tiny lights that they use to project a light and music display through the evening – proper nuts and a great second day in Japan.