AsiaJapanNara

Oh, deer!

Nara Travel Blog

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Children feeding rice crackers to the deer at Nara Park.
Today's daytrip destination was Nara. Nara has several things to recommend it, but foremost for us: it's not Kyoto!

Nara is another of Japan's historic gems (almost 1300 years old!), east of Osaka and south of Kyoto. It is about 40 minutes away from Osaka's Namba station on the slow train. We decided it was a good sign that the train was fairly empty -- let the tourists converge in Kyoto! We hoped Nara would not be as busy.

We were greeted at the Nara station by a concert band, playing outside in the sunlight. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. We stayed to listen to a few songs -- the best description I can give of the music is "Japanese-influenced-Sousa. " Good or bad, live music always entertains.
Children feeding the deer at Nara Park.
This was good.

Our plan was to spend the day in the park, Nara-Koen, visiting its temples, ponds, and the tame deer found everywhere. But first we had to find lunch, so we perused the cafes just outside the park. The famous meal here is called kaiseki, a multicourse meal that involves many little plates and bowls. I really wanted to have this. We found a place that looked good, but when I said I was vegetarian, we were waved away -- nothing here for you! Damn.  Finally we found a tiny place with some vegetarian-looking fake food outside. We asked the lady, and yes, there was one thing for me to eat: noodles in broth with "mountain vegetables," which ended up being moss or something very much like moss. Steve's non-vegetarian dish was served with miso soup, rice, pickled vegetables.
Deer at Nara Park.
..why didn't they give me those things as well? My single bowl of brown noodles in brown broth was a far cry from the kaiseki extravaganze I had hoped for. The moss wasn't the only thing at the table that was bitter.

Next we went to the park, where children were proferring rice crackers to bored deer. The jaded deer near the entrance were disinterested in the crackers, but further on in the park the deer were more hungry, and more shy. The more patient, quiet children would be rewarded when a timid deer would oh-so-slowly approach and take the cracker.

The deer were pretty large and reminded me more of reindeer than the more delicate white tail deer where I grew up in Minnesota. They were pretty ragged looking beasts -- I think they were losing their winter coats. The park has about 1200 of these deer, according to Fodor's.
Turtle pile-up at Nara Park.


There is some really good stuff to see in Nara-Koen. The Todai-ji temple in the north section dates from 752, although the buildings were burned, reconstructed, and burned again. I think only one building, San-gatsu-do (Third Month Temple), actually dates from that time (and we missed it).

You enter the Todai-ji area through the Great Southern Gate, or nandai-mon, which we thought was the main attraction when we saw it -- it's enormous! But the main draw is the Hall of the Great Buddha, Daibutsu-den. This building was reconstructed in 1709 at two-thirds its original scale, yet still claims fame as one of the largest wooden structures in the world.
Me and some deer friends at Nara Park.
It's really spectacular. It houses a 53-foot bronze buddha - that's one big ass buddha! There were a couple of smaller scale buddhas too. It was all very interesting... this was my favorite visit so far in Japan.

From there we visited a beautiful bronze bell cast in 752 (!), then we walked up to Kasuga Taisha, a monument surrounded by 3,000 stone lanterns. There were lanterns lining the long path to the monument, and grouped everywhere around the area. It would have been fantastic to see them lit, but that only happens on 3 days of the year, and April 6 is not one of them.

There were lots of visitors in Nara park, but the crowds were nowhere near as formidible as they had been in Kyoto. It really helped that there were spacious, wide open area everywhere to accommodate all the people. It was a much more peaceful place than Kyoto.

Tomorrow the forecase is rain. We are considering a trip to Koya-san, or Kobe. Or maybe back to Nara. Oh, well we'll figure it out tomorrow!
azsalsa says:
Loved the "big ass buddha". I saw a big one in Seoul, although it looks like your's topped it!
Posted on: Feb 05, 2009
sandra-kids says:
Cute photos...if anyone is interested in a great kid-friendly site about Japanese...everything, visit: http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/index.html
Posted on: Apr 07, 2008
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Children feeding rice crackers to …
Children feeding rice crackers to…
Children feeding the deer at Nara …
Children feeding the deer at Nara…
Deer at Nara Park.
Deer at Nara Park.
Turtle pile-up at Nara Park.
Turtle pile-up at Nara Park.
Me and some deer friends at Nara P…
Me and some deer friends at Nara …
Steve checking out the deer at Nar…
Steve checking out the deer at Na…
Kissing deer at Nara Park.
Kissing deer at Nara Park.
Turtles at Nara Park.
Turtles at Nara Park.
What a doll!
What a doll!
Gate at Nara Park.
Gate at Nara Park.
Hanging out at Nara Park.
Hanging out at Nara Park.
She and her friends danced through…
She and her friends danced throug…
The gate to the Hall of the Great …
The gate to the Hall of the Great…
Detail of the gate to the Hall of …
Detail of the gate to the Hall of…
The enormous Hall of the Great Bud…
The enormous Hall of the Great Bu…
Steve and I in front the Hall of t…
Steve and I in front the Hall of …
Here I am at the Hall of the Great…
Here I am at the Hall of the Grea…
Steve lighting incense near the Ha…
Steve lighting incense near the H…
Ancillary Buddha.
Ancillary Buddha.
Huge Buddha!
Huge Buddha!
At the Hall of the Great Buddha.
At the Hall of the Great Buddha.
Ferocious Buddha guardian? At the …
Ferocious Buddha guardian? At the…
Self Portrait with Ice Cream.
Self Portrait with Ice Cream.
Bronze bell cast in 752.
Bronze bell cast in 752.
Bronze bell cast in 752.
Bronze bell cast in 752.
Steve inspects a bronze bell cast …
Steve inspects a bronze bell cast…
Deer at Nara Park.
Deer at Nara Park.
Feeding deer rice crackers at Nara…
Feeding deer rice crackers at Nar…
Molting Deer at Nara Park.
Molting Deer at Nara Park.
Me and Steve in Nara Park.
Me and Steve in Nara Park.
Timid deer at Nara Park.
Timid deer at Nara Park.
Stone lanterns line the way to Kas…
Stone lanterns line the way to Ka…
Stone lanterns line the way to Kas…
Stone lanterns line the way to Ka…
Nara Park blossoms.
Nara Park blossoms.
And the band played on. At Nara st…
And the band played on. At Nara s…
Nara
photo by: yasuyo