Japan 2013 Day 5: Nara

by - 11/16/2013

So, remember how I didn't make it to Arashiyama? Well I decided I was going to cram it into my day in Nara. Guess what I didn't get to do again?! But that's totally okay, because Nara was amazing. If you aren't into temples and stuff, then you will probably be bored out of your mind here. But they are not like temples that I saw anywhere else in Japan. Each temple had something really, really special about them. To me, anyway. Nara itself has something really special that they are famous for:

Deer! There were deer everywhere, and they were all tame. They were pretty dang cute (but a little bit smelly), and the best thing was, they BOWED when they wanted snacks from you! Yes, they bowed their heads. SO CUTE. There were ladies with small carts selling shika senbei, or deer crackers.

My friend Tricia spent the day with us and showed us around Nara. She said that the deer never tried to get the crackers out of the carts because they knew the ladies would give them a whack if they tried anything funny. I found this sign, which I thought was really funny:

We visited a few temples that day. One of them was Todaiji Temple. Before getting there, you passed through Nondaimon Gate, which is protected by two gigantic statues. 

I can't even explain how huge these statues were, and I believe they are carved entirely out of wood. Crazy! Once we passed the giant gate, we were greeted by this sight:

Todaiji is the world's largest wooden building, and it houses a huge bronze buddha statue, about 15 meters tall. You need to pay to get into the temple, but it's no more than $5.00 or something.

Inside, passed the Buddha, there were other things to look at. There was this really large statue carved out of wood:

Then there was this pillar thingie with a small square in it. People were crawling through it for some reason. I think if you managed to get through it, it brought you good luck or something. I'm totally guessing here, but that's usually why people do these things, right? Good luck?

When we exited, there was this statue outside. It was made of stone, and had glass eyes. The glass eyes were really, really eerie.

We decided to try our luck with fortunes, and I was the complete opposite of lucky. 

Kevin did ever so slightly better than I did. He said that when he pulled the stick for his fortune, the man told him no, to try again. He thinks that he got a good luck fortune, but the man didn't want to give it to him!

Me and Tricia got some fresh grilled mitarashi dango:

And some fresh senbei of some sort. It was like a giant arare. If you are from  Hawaii, you know what I'm talking about!

I was told that I had to eat Kushiyaki, so that's what we did for lunch. Basically, it's just a bunch of fried things on a skewer. We picked different sets. The chef makes one, and when he notices that you are finished, he makes you the next one so you get it nice a hot. We got a series of different sauces and some salt, as well as a salad and some pickles.

By far the strangest thing we got on a stick was this. It was lotus root, coated in what appears to be whitebait, and then deep fried. You could still see their eyes! It looks scary, but it had a nice, nutty, salty flavor. This is not something that Kevin usually eats, but as the chef was watching us with scrutiny the whole time, he had to take a bite of it. Strangely, it wasn't the fish that he didn't like, it was the lotus! The chef laughed a little bit at Kevin, and he gave me the rest of his lotus/fish stick.

On our way to Kasuga Taisha, there were many stone lanterns along the way.

We stopped and got some green tea vanilla ice cream cones! The deer also tried to eat these.

Tricia said this place was very popular for weddings, and when we got there, I believe a wedding had just been had. There were many people dressed in traditional Japanese clothing, but the children were especially adorable!

Kasuga Taisha is known for their lanterns. There are thousands of them!

But the one thing that I was really excited about was to finally get some proper pictures of the leaves. So fair warning, gratuitous foliage shots ahead!

Tips for Nara: 
  • Go early! There is a lot to see in Nara. Luckily, they are all located in the same place and you can walk to most of the attractions. 
  • Go in the fall! I'm sure any other time is probably equally as beautiful, but I am totally biased. I have an obsession with fall leaves and I just want others to share in my obsession. 
  • Pay for the temples. The entrance fees are very cheap, and everything is really worth seeing. 
  • Feed some deer. Watch as they bow for their food!

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