Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Magnificent Monuments of Nara

Since arriving in Osaka we have had many people recommending a trip to the nearby town of Nara as a must see experience. So, with Dave and Cara keen to explore the area, we all hopped on a train bound for the mountains east of Osaka to experience ‘the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara’ as it is referred to on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. We had also been told about the abundant deer that can be found roaming the town and in particular throughout scenic Nara Park. Here by Shinto tradition, they are regarded as ‘heavenly’ creatures and are able to walk around quite freely being fed with especially prepared crackers that can be easily bought from the numerous street vendors. After joining the many other tourists keeping the deer well and truly nourished, we made our way to view some of the largest Buddhist temples to be found in Japan. Jules and Cara had temple books in hand and were keen to have them signed by the local monks so initially we viewed the Kofuku-ji temple with it’s magnificent four storey pagoda. This was soon followed by a pilgrimage to Todaiji temple, which is particularly notable as it houses Japans largest bronze Buddha. As we approached the temple we walked through Nandaimon gate, which is guarded by two fierce looking statues dating back to the thirteenth century. The temple itself is impressive in both its design and scale, being the largest wooden building in the world. Upon entering, the size of the structure is even more evident, with the imposing giant Buddha (all of 15 metres tall) taking pride of place. We pondered which might have come first… the temple or the Buddha? As we moved on we ventured further into the hills where other smaller, but no less beautiful temples overlooked the township and provided views of beyond. By now it was late afternoon and although we had just begun to explore the area we were suitably impressed with the many cultural sights Nara had to offer. As claimed, it was certainly worth the visit and with more to see we will be back!

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