Tuesday I went to an even older capital of Japan, Nara, capital in the 8th century.
I first set out to the Heijo palace…site. I didn’t fully realize is that this means it’s an architectural site, and this mean lots of dips in the ground where pillars stood holding up the imperial buildings, but not necessarily much else. The excavation museum and the reconstructed buildings were interesting, but call me a philistine, I’m not that into archeology that I would want to go again. However, I did get to have another pleasant interaction with a Japanese lady who spoke no English but saw me staring intently at the bus map. (We had just come to some railway tracks and I had evidently perked up because I thought I could use the tracks as a reference point on the map. I felt a tap on my shoulder and the lady pointed to where we were – a good thing too, as I was about a Mel off on where we were crossing the tracks!)
I headed back to the center and eastern part of town, which consists of a huge park and temple sprawl called Nara Park. On my way, I stopped at a place where from the menu, I though I could get some sushi for lunch. Once inside, they brought me the English menu and I discovered I was in a restaurant specializing in grilled eel. Oh well, at least it’s very tasty!
I entered Nara Park by the five tower pagoda, and spent the afternoon looking at three of the major temple complexes in the area.
As I approached the park, I passed a pond where turtles were lying out enjoying the sun. On one log, they were actually piled up on each other, there were so many. A few steps later, I saw several deer at the side of the street. After I climbed the stairs to the first temple, I saw a lot more deer, explaining all the deer-related souvenirs I had seen on my walk from the station. In fact, there are vendors all over the park selling “deer cookies”, and the deer come running whenever someone buys a packet. Like deer anywhere who live where humans routinely feed them, they would (on the whole gently) mob you if you had food for them. There’s no hiding it! On the whole, they avoided people food. Most people took it ok, though one cute little tyke ran screaming for her daddy.
The five tower pagoda complex is lovely and gracious, but I was more struck by the next two temples. The second one is where the Great Buddha, the biggest statue in Japan made all of bronze at 16 meters tall, is located. It’s very impressive. The last one is hidden on the hillside, surrounded by hundreds of lamps. It’s peaceful and serene, despite the tourists.
And then back home, footsore and about “templed out”, first pausing for a photo shoot with some deer under a group of flowering trees.
(Pictures to be posted when I have access to a desktop or laptop again.)