A Wonderful Trip to Nara

Hello again, Colorado! Glad to hear the worst of your flooding seems to be over. I hope everybody is safe and sound, not to mention dry.

Japan had a similar problem this last weekend, as the central region of the country was hit hard by Typhoon Man-yi, killing one, injuring hundreds, and making hundreds of thousands of people evacuate their homes. On a smaller scale, it also interrupted my travel plans for my three-day weekend, as the flooding shut down the trains in my region on my Monday off. Stupid weather.

That didn’t stop me from making the best out of the other two days that weekend, and, on Saturday, I made the trip to Nara, an important cultural center in Japan.

Todai-Ji
Outside of the Todai-Ji temple.

Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784 and it wasn’t bombed to hell in the Second World War, so it’s one of the prime places to go if you want to see the less modern, bright and technological side of the country. Eight sites in the city are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 26 have been designated by the Japanese government as National Treasures, and 53 are Important Cultural Properties. So it’s basically a haven for people interested in old-time Japanese culture.

Once we got off the train, we immediately walked to the Nara Park area, where the majority of the most important sites in the city are located. The area around Nara Park has potentially the most peaceful atmosphere I’ve ever experienced. It’s almost completely quiet, but not in an eerie way; instead, it’s amazingly calming. If I meditated, I would do it there.

But no time to meditate! We had places to be. The first (and also coolest) World Heritage Site we went to was Tōdai-ji, world famous for its Great Buddha Hall, which houses a Buddha statue 49 feet tall. It truly is amazing, though the indoor lighting makes it damn near impossible to get a good picture of it. Guess all you lovely people will just have to go see it in person!

Nara Deer
This poor guy got spotted with food!

Roaming the grounds of Tōdai-ji are a ridiculous amount of deer. We’re used to deer as nuisances that just run in front of cars because they’re too stupid to do otherwise, but in Nara, their Sika deer are considered to be messengers of the Shinto gods. Indeed, these deer are way better than their American counterparts. They roam around Tōdai-ji and Nara Park, waiting for poor souls to pull out a piece of food, at which point they swarm around until there’s nothing left. It’s a fun sight to see, though it’s a little scary when you’re the one with the food!

We went to a few other cool sights, such as Kasuga Shrine and Nigatsu Hall, but talking about all of them would take forever. For people who hear Japan and think of nothing but flashing lights and ridiculous technology, a trip to Nara will probably change your perceptions of the country. It’s also a load of fun!