After my internship in Japan I went on a small vacation to the Kanto Region. As I was going to visit Kyoto and Nara I choose Osaka for my place to stay. Compared to Kyoto and Nara the accommodation is relatively cheap and you can reach all famous spots within one hour by train. So it’s quite optimal, and as a bonus you can enjoy the night live of Osaka as well! See my report about Osaka for hints and tips on hotels and places to visit!

Nara trip

As usual I didn’t do much of a planing before going to Nara. I heard from a good friend of mine that it is worth a visit. So I went off to Nara one morning with just my camera and optimism that I’ll manage just fine 🙂

And I did. Going sightseeing in Nara is quite simple. Most of the temples and shrines are located in one big area and you really have to take wrong directions in order to miss the best of it. I for myself just sticked with other tourists and headed west from Nara station.

Deer of Nara

I was surprised by the countless deers that are living here and in other places of Nara. As I said, I didn’t do any research before actually visiting Nara, so it was then that I learned that Nara is famous for these deers, and that they are part of the Nara history.  It is said that a mythological god arrived in Nara on a white dear to guard the newly built capital of Heijo-kyo and that since then the deer have been seen as heavenly animals which protect the city and country. The deers, are “tame”, but you have to be aware that they are only as tame es wild animals can get. You can feed them (There are plenty of snack vendors that sell special food for the deer), but you should be aware that other deer might quite forcefully try to get their own share (nudge, jostle and even bite).  Some of them are quite big, so think twice about your actions 😉 Playing pranks on them is not a good idea *g*

Kofuku-ji

The first place I got to see was the Kofuku-ji.

For me it was the second time I saw a Five-storied pagoda. The first time was at Asakusa in Tokyo, but since it was night time then it was the first time I got to realize the size for them. I was impressed by what the Japanese where capable of building so many years ago.

Following buildings can bee seen at the Kofuku-ji site: Tōkondo, Five-storied pagoda, Three-storied pagoda, Hoku’endō, Nan’endō, Ōyūya.

Abstract of the Wikipedia article:

Kōfuku-ji has its origin as a temple that was established in 669 by Kagami-no-Ōkimi (鏡大君), the wife of Fujiwara no Kamatari, wishing for her husbands’s recovery from illness. Its original site was in Yamashina, Yamashiro Province (present-day Kyoto). In 672, the temple was moved to Fujiwara-kyō, the first artificially planned capital in Japan, then again in 710, moved to its current place, on the east side of the newly constructed capital, Heijō-kyō, today’s Nara.

Kōfuku-ji was the Fujiwara’s tutelary temple, and enjoyed as much prosperty, and as long as the family did. The temple was not only an important center for the Buddhist religion, but also retained influence over the imperial government, and even by “aggressive means” in some cases.[1] When many of the Nanto Shichi Daiji such as Tōdai-ji -declined after the move of capital to Heian-kyō (Kyoto), Kōfuku-ji kept its significance because of its connection to the Fujiwara. The temple was damaged and destroyed by civil wars and fires many times, and was rebuilt as many times as well, although finally some of the important buildings, such as two of the three golden halls, the nandaimon, chūmon and the corridor were never reconstructed and are missing today.

Nandaimon

Blindly following the other tourists I reached the Nandaimon (Grate South Gate). You can gasp the sheer immens size of this structure when you look at the picture with school-children standing in the ceiling. This gate also inherits the two dancing figures of Nio. The two figures are about 10 meters tall. The Nandaimon is part of the Toudai-ji ( Eastern GreateTemple).

Toudai-ji

Next was the Toudai-ji (Eastern Grate Temple). The Toudai-ji is a Buddhist temple and the largest building out of the complex is the Daibutsuden (Great Buddah Hall). The Toudai-ji is one of the few attractions you actually have to pay an entry fee (500 yen). But its definitely worth it.

Abstract of the Wikipedia article:

Tōdai-ji (東大寺, Tōdai-ji, Eastern Great Temple), is a Buddhist temple complex located in the city of Nara, Japan. Its Great Buddha Hall (大仏殿 Daibutsuden), the largest wooden building in the world, houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese simply as Daibutsu (大仏). The temple also serves as the Japanese headquarters of the Kegon school of Buddhism. The temple is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site as “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara”, together with seven other sites including temples, shrines and places in the city of Nara. Sika deer, regarded as messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion, roam the grounds freely.

After i left the Toudai-ji, I went for walk further west and reached the Sangatsu-do. After taking a few pictures I decided that this place was best for a few sunset pictures. So I left again and walked further south.  Going southward you’ll fist reach some shops and Omejage-stands and then leave the road and enter the Kasugayama Primeval Forest (UNESCO World Heritage Site) inheriting many smaller shrines and temples.

Kasuga-Taisha

After entering the Kasugayama Primeval Forest I went further south and reached the Kasuga-Taisha shrine. The buildings are painted in the typical red which is most beautiful when the sun begins to set. Around the Shrine are over a thousand stone lanterns and a botanical garden is adjacent to the shrine.

Abstract of the Wikipedia article:

Kasuga Grand Shrine (春日大社, Kasuga-taisha) is a Shinto shrine in the city of Nara, in Nara Prefecture, Japan. Established in 768 AD and rebuilt several times over the centuries, it is the shrine of the Fujiwara family. The interior is famous for its many bronze lanterns, as well as the many stone lanterns that lead up the shrine.

Wakamiya-Jinja

After leaving the Kasuga-Taisha I walked further into the Kasugayama Primeval Forest and found the Wakaimya shrine which is located a few minutes southwest of the Kasuga-taisha. Just walking through the forest is really nice, so if you’re not to exhausted and have enough time left (not like me, just before sunset) you can have a really nice walk there and relax.

Sangatsu-dou (Hokke-dou) – Nigatsu-dou

Since the sun already begun to set, I decided to head back to the Nigatsu-dou building in order to take a few sunset pictures. I expected it to be crowded, but apparently the Japanese visitors prefer to leave before it gets dark. So you actually don’t have to worry about getting a good spot to take pictures. (This was the same when I revisited Nara in July 2011)

The complex has 2 main buildings. The Hokke-dou or also known as Sangatsu-dou and the Nigatsu-dou which is probably the highest located buildings in Nara. So best for some nice pictures! 🙂

This is it. After the Sun set I quickly made my way back to the train station in order to check the time tables (yeah well you should do that in advance *g*). Luckyly the last train for Osaka leaves around 9.30pm so there was still plenty of time left.


one answer

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