Where's that damn iPhone?
Nara Travel Blog› entry 12 of 15 › view all entries
The next day, having dreamt of geishas and talking foxes; we hopped aboard a local train bound for the city of Nara. We negotiated the ticket machines with what we mistook as panache. Sadly, we bought the wrong ticket and a very polite Japanese conductor apologetically explained we owed him more money. Slightly confused and embarrassed we arrived in the city itself.
We walked out of the station. "Do you have the Bible?" My friend asked innocently. I checked, the LP was missing. Disaster. "Fool, you left it on the train." I was adamant that this was not the case. I think I may have protested my innocence vociferously.
The park, despite it's many beauties and attractions is famous for the herd of twelve hundred wild deer who mug tourists for food. We'd heard about the number, but our first sight of about forty of them meandering in amongst tourists and pedestrians was slightly staggering.
A small army of Japanese women are stationed around the park exhorting passers by to spare a few yen for special 'dee biscuits' to attract the animals. From first glance this appears totally unnecessary as the animals all look well fed and there is masses of lush vegetation all over the place. Further study revealed that the animals looked so well fed because the vast majority of tourists buy the biscuits and allow the deer to glut (not rut) on them.
The deer look placid and sweet, and there were a few fawns that were eerily reminiscent of Bambi; but this is façade. Don't be fooled! At the merest rustle, the faintest whiff, the intangible memory of deer biscuits is enough to provoke a stampede of hungry herbivores ready to chomp their way to their favourite treats. I saw small children swept away by a throng of deer driven wild by the prospect. Innocent tourists disappeared in a mass of tawny bodies, arms flailing and lingering crumbs swept up.
The feast completed, the deer promptly plonk themselves down and await the next kindly disposed tourist...
We extricated ourselves from the hungry masses and headed towards the Kofujuji temple complex.
The complex featured a nice shrine, and interestingly huge bell that anyone is forbidden to touch under any circumstances. A pity, as it looked like it would be fun to bong and hear it peal. My friend made the mistake of trying to befriend a deer. A gentle pat didn't seem out of order, but the fact no deer biscuits appeared was. We were soundly chased off.
From the temple complex we headed towards the Ara-ike pond. The pond was a bit of a misnomer, it was more like an extended lake.
We headed further up the park, dodging bands of persistent deer heading towards Todaiji Temple. On the way we stumbled across the Sagi-ike pond with an attractive wooden jetty, the grandly named Ukimido Hall in the middle. We wandered up, sat down and I started to snap away. "Good idea," my friend said and patted his pocket to locate his camera phone. "Hmmmm." More patting. "Ah." Frantic patting. "Arse." A look, reminiscent of a deer who's just had his biscuits taken away. "Um... I've lost my phone."
I think I looked incredulous. I was hot, and this was a stupid thing to happen.
We saw Ara-ike, it was still pretty. Kofukuji was still dominated by the Five Story Pagoda. Deer still harassed pedestrians.
We reached the station and after some minutes managed to make our predicament understood to an amazingly patient platform supervisor. "No," he managed to say. "No here. Try later." We shrugged and retraced our steps.
Pushing irritably past ravenous deer, ignoring the majesty of the Five Story Pagoda, the spiritual sanctuary of Kofukuji, the peaceful ripples of Ara-ike.
Along the way I kept trying to ring him, and we looked suspiciously at the thronging deer in case any of them happened to be ringing. None noticeably were, and looking too long suggested the prospect of the deer biscuits and we had to beat a hasty retreat. To be fair - I don't know what we'd of done if one of them had rung - and I dread to think what one of the deer would have done if his phone had been set to vibrate...
We left Sagi-ike and struck off through the park towards Todaiji. Todaiji was completed in 752 by the Emperor Shomu to enshrine a giant image of the Buddha.
We passed through the imposing Nandai-mon gate, a structure in itself so huge that it causes involuntary gawping. Deer meandered around, but muggings were rarer here, the deer obviously more placid on holy ground. Two huge devas, the guardians to drive away evil loomed on each side. Ahead was Daibutsu-den, the Hall of the Great Buddha.
The Buddha is... well...
Several giant deva stand around protecting the Buddha, whilst two of their brethren had been less lucky; their decapitated heads on one side of the chamber. One giant pillar supporting the roof has a hole in it near floor level. Allegedly a human can crawl through it. Maybe a Japanese one - I wasn't prepared to try it in case I got stuck and was responsible for accidental desecration and destruction.
We left, heading back to a more crazy, less tranquil and noticeably scaled down world. I looked back once at the giant statue and smiled.
We journeyed back towards the station, glancing for abandoned Apple gadgetry as we did so and keeping away from ravenous deer who crept upon the unwary like ninjas drooping from the ceiling. At the station we repeated our enquiries about the lost phone - still nadda. We boarded the train with the slight hope it may be waiting for us in Kyoto.
Sadly it was not.
We asked, and the most polite staff in the universe apologised, bowed and kept doing so with a look of almost genuine despair on their faces.
A sudden cry made us a turn, a guard ran down the platform towards us waving and gesticulating frantically. He was beaming and, once calm, managed to tell us the phone had been found... in Nara (though not in a deer), and had been put on the first train back, we only had to wait twenty-five minutes for its safe return.
My friend bounced slightly with joy, I collapsed and smoked a cigarette. As that took only five minutes we explored the arresting architecture of Kyoto station with its grand staircase and marvelled at the Kyoto Tower stabbing into the dusk sky.
At the allotted time we turned up at the guards office where the phone was returned with many more apologies and much bowing. Now that's service.