I could spend the day walking around the modern attractions of Osaka but I decide instead to head a bit out of the big city to go and see the ancient capital of Japan. It is only a short train ride from JR Namba station in Osaka to Nara - at least in theory if you can actually figure out the timetables and the train routes - which I thought I had when I started my journey. Unfortunately it turned out my abilities to interpret the timetables of Japanese trains lagged a bit to be desired - hence I went the scenic route to Nara which took about 3 times as long as the ½ hour it was supposed to take. But in the end I manage to get to Nara station.
At the station I do want I have gotten accustomed to by now - I head straight for the tourist information and get a map of the city - and figure out how to get from the station to the different attractions.
Unfortunately the city planners have a some stage decide to put the station as far away from the ancient capital as they could. So I had a bit of a walk from the station to the old town. I guess there might have been a bus but I did not have the patience to actually try to figure out if there’s a bus or not - better just walk the 2k to the old town.
I start walking towards the old capital which is the oldest capital of the united country of Japan. The first Japanese emperors who resided in Nara lived there around the third century - but there was not a permanent capital back then because of Shinto tradition demanding the capital should be moved every time an emperor passed away. But when Buddhism got introduced this tradition died out and in 646 all of Japan came under the control of the same emperor. But this stage it was time to find a suitable capital. A couple of locations were tried out - unsuccessfully. Then it was time to try a new and better location - which ended up in Nara. This way Nara suddenly earned it spot as the main city in all of unified Japan.
The heyday of Nara only lasted a short period. The clergy in Nara got ever more powerful threatened the power of the imperial family. To protect its own power the imperial family decided it had to move away from the clergy in Nara and after just 75 years with Nara as a capital the emperor moved away to Kyoto where the emperors and his descendants would stay for more than a thousand years.
But even though the centre of power only stayed in Nara for a very short time it was enough to make some remarkable structures which have survived until to today. And I am here to see what was left behind.
I walk down the road and reach the first parts of old Nara. In principal all of the old city of Nara is built next to each other - but because of the scale of the old city you will still need to do some walking to go from one part of the old town to the next.
The first part of town I reach is the area around the Kufuku-Ji which is also home to a large five story pagoda - it is only half the height of the old pagodas of the city but it is still the second tallest pagoda in Japan only one in Kyoto is taller. I don’t really mind it is not the tallest in the country - this is the first really big pagoda I have seen so I figure it looks impressive. Around the ground at the shrine area is lots of deer’s running around - they are very accustomed to humans and do not mind people close by actually them seem to like humans as a source of hand outs of food.
I head a little further down the street and I get to the main attraction of Nara. The Todai-Ji Daibutsu-den - the building is enormous and it is the biggest wooden building in the world today. It is hard to believe that the current building is actually only two thirds of the size of the original building which stood at the ground originally. The building is housing a giant Buddha figure which is the biggest in all of Japan. Walking down the road towards the building you will pass through the most crowded area in Nara - but it is not too bad on a Friday like the day I get there.
The track is not only used by humans but also a huge number of the tame deer’s which run free at the area. The deer’s are coming up close to you to check if you should have some of the bisques which are sold in the area as food for the deer’s.
One of the deer’s come up close to me to have a look if I got something for it - which I don’t. Hence I don’t mind it looking around for a bit. So it comes up close and look in my pocket - which I thought was empty - but it wasn’t I did have my map in my pocket and the deer thought it would have a better place in its stomach than my pocket. Hence it snatches my map and when I try to get it back it won’t let go. Hence I have to walk around the rest of the day without the map.
After visiting the giant hall I walk a bit out to see some of the lesser know parts of Nara. In these areas you can almost walk alone because all the tourist seems to stay solely in the most famous parts of the area - even though many of the other parts are actually quite impressive.
I walk around the rest of the area for a while looking at the different shrines before I head back towards the station and go back to Osaka.