Saturday, August 29, 2009



Nara is only a short 40 minute train ride from Osaka, so it was an irresistible side trip, having missed it when I was in Kyoto several months ago. Off we went.

As the capital of Japan in the late 8th century, Nara was the focal point for the establishment of Buddhism brought to the island from China during the preceding century. Its magnificent temples, pagodas, and bell towers manifest a wealthy and powerful political and religious elite that wished to make a permanent and impressive stamp on the landscape and the nation.

Although smaller in size than Kyoto, Nara impressed me more with its atmosphere and scale of religious architecture. Plus, the deer. For the kid in you who still loves Bambi, I invite you to a day in Nara, where the deer are seen as protector symbols of the city and therefore allowed to roam at will-- everywhere! The Japanese answer to the cows in India, I suppose. All I could think of were ticks and Lyme disease.

Most of the temples etc are sprinkled throughout a vast, leafy park that is easily strollable on a day trip. Although still feeling under the weather from a head cold, I schlepped my tuchus from one to the next and it really was great as some of the photos here will show you. The Todaiji
temple, in particular, blew me away with its scale and setting on a vast open field.
We ran into an unexpected two-day amateur dance festival-- the Basara Matsuri. Dance teams from all over come to Nara to strut and compete over a 2 day weekend. Lots of young people, some wildly costumed, all enthused with parents and family snapping pics and cheering them on as they paraded along the park perimeter.

The humidity was exceptional, made somewhat more oppressive by a steady rain for about an hour in the morning. Dressed as lightly as decency would permit but still dripping after a 5 minute walk. During one leg of our stroll through a dense forest, I joked to Moh that we shouldn't pause, lest moss start growing up my legs.
Fascinating day. Then off to Kobe for a day and a half before Hiroshima.

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