Nara, Home of the Roaming Deer

Sunday morning was low key in Kyoto.  We had an afternoon trip to Nara planned so we could take our time and do whatever we wanted in the morning.  Ryan and I found a place called Smart Coffee and decided to get some coffee and breakfast there.
It was the French Toast on the menu that enticed us.  It was so yummy!
Here is a little about the history of one of the famous shopping streets here known as Teramachi Street. The Japanese seem to love their covered, pedestrian friendly shopping streets (also known as arcades in some parts of the world) and Kyoto is no exception.  It is very helpful when it is raining or snowing outside.  It is even nice to keep cover from the sun.
You can see here that the street is covered.  They also have cute hanging signs.
After strolling the markets in the morning it was time to head to Nara.  Nara is anywhere from 50-90 minutes away, depending on the traffic.  Nara is the original documented capital of Japan, although that barely lasted even 100 years before the capital was changed to Kyoto (that lasted a lot longer).  Nara is known not just for it's history as the original capital and home to a very special temple, but for it's deer.  That's right, Nara is known for it's deer.  The deer are considered tame, but they are still considered wild animals.  They are very used to people, but they can get an "attitude" and become aggressive.  But they are just so darn cute!
Even with antlers, these deer roam free and get up close to tourists and locals alike.
In Nara, the deer are definitely one of the major sights to see.
Off to the left is a cracker vendor.  You can buy crackers to feed the deer.  The deer go nuts for these but the amazing thing is that they do not steal them from the vendors.  They wait until someone buys them and then they go after the person with the crackers.
This one thinks Ryan has something, but he doesn't...at least not yet!

Did I mention the deer are everywhere?!?!?!
This guy is just getting some rest...
so Rachel and I joined him for a picture.
At this point we are approaching Todai-ji Temple which is one of the most famous temples in Japan.  It is also the largest wooden building in the world.  Of course, being wooden, this has been burned down many times over the years and the remaining structure is smaller than the original.  You can see (on one of the gates to the temple) the intricate wood work to hold up this structure.
Also in the gate area are these crazy statues, which are for good luck as they are guardians of the temple.
Really creepy looking!  But very cool!
Between the gate and the temple there are still plenty of deer around.

Ryan is trying to explain to the deer that he has no food.  I am not sure the deer believes him!
There is a torii gate in the distance, although this temple is a Buddhist temple.
This is a big one!

Here we are getting closer to the actual temple.  The temple is behind this and it is closed off so that no deer enter that area.  At least we didn't see any deer beyond that point.
That is Todai-ji Temple in the distance.  It is definitely a massive building.
The height is necessary because the Buddha inside is that tall.  So over the years while the structure itself has shrunk, the height remains the same to accommodate the Buddha.
Here I am with my sister.
This is one of the sides along the temple area.  This creates a border so there is a square in the middle with the entrance at one end and the temple at the far end of the other.  No deer here!
This is the temple up close.  Those little hooks on the roof look like horns but they are upside down fish.  These are supposed to be good luck to prevent against fire, but we know how that worked out.  Lightening is the usual culprit for fires in these wooden building but some times it is the work of an arsonist or could just be accidental.
Fancy (and old) wood work.

Inside is the Buddha.
Off to each side is a smaller Buddha.
In the back were more statues that acted as good luck or protectors of the temple.
This is really hard to see but there is a child crawling out of that pole.  There is a hole in that pole the size of Buddha's nose hole (the statue here) and it is said if you can fit through it then you will be able to get into heaven.  So people were lined up to try.  We watched an older man nearly get stuck.  I wonder how often that happens?!?!?
This is the Buddha on the other side of the big statue as we made our way around.
One last shot from the front of the big Buddha inside this temple.
Here is Ryan and my sister as we were leaving the temple.
Getting up close and personal with the deer.

Then Ryan got brave and decided to feed the deer.  Oh yes, he bought the crackers.  Within seconds they were already all over him.  
They had him running backwards.  They were nipping at his shirt and biting his pants.
Somehow he managed to feed them the crackers and not get hurt.
Then, just like with the dog, he showed them his empty hands when he was finished and they all backed up.  It's crazy how they only get really aggressive when you have the crackers.  They really chilled out as soon as he was done.
And everyone walked away peacefully!
Plenty more deer on the way out.

Our next stop was the Kasuga Shrine.
Lots of cool stuff to look at.
Lanterns.  Tons of lanterns.
This fountain had water spouting out from the deer's mouth.  Yes, there were lots of deer all over the place here too.  Not as many as Todaiji, but still plenty.
Heading up to the shrine.
More lanterns.
Another torii gate.
Rows and rows of lanterns.
After this shrine and some more deer petting we headed back to Kyoto.

We absolutely loved Nara.  I highly recommend at least a half day out there like we did from Kyoto.  You can also head there for a half or full day from Osaka.  It is well worth the trip, even if for a short time.  I would love to go back and spend a little more time there.  The deer were awesome and I know there is a lot more history there to learn about.

QUESTIONS:  Have you heard of Nara and their famous deer?  Have you ever pet or fed deer?  Do you have a lot of deer where you live?

1 comment:

Meredith Targarona said...

the deer are freakin' me out!

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