Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kyoto, Day 5: Nara and Uji

Although the Japan trip is now quite distant, I'm still trying to persevere with travel blogging all the things we did. Co-opting of regular blog content will continue intermittently for a few days more. Apologies!

The fifth day that we spent in Japan was Saturday, so the Chairpeople were free to come with us and play tourist. They took us to Nara and Uji, two smaller cities not too far from Kyoto.

Nara is somewhat famous for its roving deer herds. There were a ton of deer wandering all over the place. I made friends with this particular deer:

But he soon lost interest in me because I didn't feed him anything. There are lots of vendors near all the tourist sites who sell wafers of deer food. In the picture below, you can see how all the deer are mobbing this poor woman who's holding some of the wafers in her hand:

You had to be careful about handing out food, because you really got swarmed!

The deer were loitering primarily around the main temple in Nara, which is called Todai-ji.Here is Todai-ji's gate:

Hopefully the size of the people entering through it gives you an idea of how big it was. It was really immense. And you can see more deer wandering around, pestering tourists for food.

When you're standing inside the gate, you can look to each side and see a fearsome statue. I think the statues were supposed to be some kind of Buddhist gods that protect the temple from evil spirits.

The Chairpeople are in the picture for scale:

Everything about Todai-ji is big. Supposedly, the temple itself is supposed to be the largest wooden building (I think volume-wise) in the world. So I guess a big temple requires a big gate and big scary guardians.

And yes, the temple is quite large:

Although it's built very much in the same traditional style that most Japanese temples are, it's still impressive to think that it's entirely built out of wood.

Todai-ji houses a very large bronze statue of Buddha:

The picture doesn't give you a good idea of just how big the Buddha is, but I'd say he's pretty large and in charge.

We ate lunch in Nara at a traditional Japanese restaurant and then got on the train to Uji, which is between Nara and Kyoto.

At Uji, we visited Byodo-in. This temple is most famous for being the image stamped on the face of the ten-yen coin.

In lieu of gardens, Byodo-in features a modern museum that displays some of the treasures preserved from the main hall of the temple (which you can't enter). The museum documents the preservation efforts and houses a lot of original artifacts, including dozens of small wooden statues of of flying bodhisattvas, sitting on clouds and playing a variety of musical instruments. It was amazing that these wooden statutes were still so intact after thousands of years. The museum was really interesting, but unfortunately, we couldn't take any photos.

Here's a view of Byodo-in from the side:

The smaller pavilion in front is mirrored on the far side of the main, larger building. It's really quite pretty.

That was the fifth day. Next up: Sanzen-in! Arashiyama! And MONKEYS!


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