After reaching our final destination, Kyoto, we took a couple side trips. I’m going to cover these first before wrapping up with Kyoto after we get home. Our tour, while wonderful, offered too little down time for me to keep up with photo sorting. Now that Nancy and I are on our own again, we’re slowing our pace, a bit.
Established as Japan’s first permanent capital in 710, Nara is less than an hour south of Kyoto. It contains some of the oldest and largest temples in the country.
April 9 – Nara
We stopped at tourist information and planned our route through town. It was Palm Sunday and we saw priest and a few people singing, holding palm fronds. Only about one percent of the population is Christian. Wild, but tame sika deer, native to Japan, were wandering about everywhere. Up until 1637 they were considered sacred and killing one was punishable by death. Now they follow tourists around seeking out deer crackers prepared for their consumptions; one nibbled my map. The city was filled with tourists, many taking pictures of the deer and cherry blossoms.
Isuien Garden was peaceful and provided a glimpse of Todaiji Temple gate, the only one we would see not covered in construction cloth. In the temple, we saw one of Japan’s largest bronze statues of Buddha. Fifteen meters tall, this seated Buddha is flanked by two Bodhisattvas and numerous small buddhas. From there is was uphill, past many sights, to the Kasuaga Taisha Shrine, filled with hundreds of lanterns (tōrō). We took a bus back down to the train station.