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Where's that damn iPhone?

Nara Travel Blog

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One of the most interesting things about Nara are the 1,200 deer that ran around the Nara-kõen park! Was very amusing to watch them harass tourists!

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.

Someone has deer biscuits! Stampede!
 After a quite unseemly squabble, we settled on blaming each other and headed off and followed the hordes of tourists up towards Nara-kõen park.

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.

Many deer...

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 Five Story Pagoda at the Kofujuji temple complex. This one is actually the tallest one in Japan.
 The striking Five-Story Pagoda greeted us from afar, towering over the park and its ravenous inhabitants.  Built in 1426, it's the second largest pagoda in Japan.  I was disappointed that you didn't seem to be able to interact with the structure in any way, but it was an arresting sight.

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.

The National Treasure Hall with the pagoda in the background.
 Some deer splashed happily in the shallows; I was melting in the sticky 95% humidity and was pleased to find the pleasant shade of a tree.

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.

Mmmm pagoda.
 "Do we need to go back?"  I asked, my voice a wheedle.  He nodded grimly.  We retraced our steps.  I mutter some choice profanities, attempting to be surreptitiously annoyed.

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.

Tall and bright.
 We sat down again in Ukimido Hall.  We said nothing for a while.  "I'm just going to take a photo," my friend said as he began patting his pockets.  I shot him a look.  "Ah, yes.  Sorry."

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.

Sleepy deer.
 Two fires have previously ravaged the structure, and the temple was rebuilt in its present form in 1692.  However it was scaled down to only two-thirds of its original size, which still makes it the largest wooden building in the world and a World Heritage Site according to UNESCO.  Even though I've told you that, you still have to go see it - it's incredible.

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...

Tall ginger man, meet deer. Shortly after the deer tries to eat him in the vain hope of some deer biscuits. Biscuit Fail.
immense.  Gigantic.  Massive.  Superfrickingnormous.  Adjectives fail me really.  At sixteen metres high, and looking good for his 437 gross tonnage the enshrined statue oozes calm.  The atmosphere is hushed, tourists mill about the statue and just gaze in awe.  I offered a silent prayer for the imminent return of the missing iPhone, but the magnanimous guardian of the temple didn't reply.  I felt calmer about the whole ordeal though.

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.

The shrine at Kofukuji.
 A handy souvenir stand in the corner meant the last family pressies were snapped up, complete with donation to the temple.

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.

The dragon fountain at the purification station.
 We left, slightly dejected and began walking out of the station.

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.

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One of the most interesting things…
One of the most interesting thing…
Someone has deer biscuits!  Stampe…
Someone has deer biscuits! Stamp…
Many deer...
Many deer...
The Five Story Pagoda at the Kofuj…
The Five Story Pagoda at the Kofu…
The National Treasure Hall with th…
The National Treasure Hall with t…
Mmmm pagoda.
Mmmm pagoda.
Tall and bright.
Tall and bright.
Sleepy deer.
Sleepy deer.
Tall ginger man, meet deer.  Short…
Tall ginger man, meet deer. Shor…
The shrine at Kofukuji.
The shrine at Kofukuji.
The dragon fountain at the purific…
The dragon fountain at the purifi…
The shrine at Kofukuji.
The shrine at Kofukuji.
Ring the bell if you want to tell …
Ring the bell if you want to tell…
A big bell - the notice very polit…
A big bell - the notice very poli…
The Kofukuji complex.
The Kofukuji complex.
National Treasure Hall.
National Treasure Hall.
Bit more pagoda action - think I g…
Bit more pagoda action - think I …
Big torii gate
Big torii gate
Shots of the park
Shots of the park
Looking down at Ara-ike pond
Looking down at Ara-ike pond
The pleasantness of Ara-ike pond
The pleasantness of Ara-ike pond
Some more pond action
Some more pond action
Deer swim!
Deer swim!
Frolic in the water, la la la la l…
Frolic in the water, la la la la …
More shots of Nara-kõen park
More shots of Nara-kõen park
Nara-kõen
Nara-kõen
Sagi-ike pond with thing called Uk…
Sagi-ike pond with thing called U…
This was a great place to sit down
This was a great place to sit down
View from the Hall in the pond
View from the Hall in the pond
The hall
The hall
Looking towards the distant mounta…
Looking towards the distant mount…
Nandai-mon gate, the entrance to T…
Nandai-mon gate, the entrance to …
Looking up at the vast gate
Looking up at the vast gate
One of the two deva guardians in N…
One of the two deva guardians in …
The second deva guardian statue in…
The second deva guardian statue i…
Looking back at the gate
Looking back at the gate
Deer!  This one didnt try to atta…
Deer! This one didn't try to att…
Looking through at Daibutsu-den, t…
Looking through at Daibutsu-den, …
This is the largest wooden buildin…
This is the largest wooden buildi…
The giant lantern outside Daibutsu…
The giant lantern outside Daibuts…
Huge wooden door
Huge wooden door
One massive Buddha!  Its over six…
One massive Buddha! It's over si…
High-five with the Daibutsu
High-five with the Daibutsu
Side view
Side view
One of the deva, Koumonku-ten
One of the deva, Koumonku-ten
Heads of statues
Heads of statues
Tamon-ten, another deva guardian s…
Tamon-ten, another deva guardian …
This statue was so huge, it was aw…
This statue was so huge, it was a…
Another giant thing, this time an …
Another giant thing, this time an…
Nara
photo by: yasuyo