I'll admit I've wanted to see Nara for a while because it's the hometown of Domoto Tsuyoshi. He's so proud of it, writing songs about it and including images in his promotional materials, that the city made him "Sightseeing Ambassador." I think it gets overlooked a little in the shadow of Kyoto, but it was top on my list.
Gangoji Temple is a World Heritage site noted for its ancient roof tiles, but I loved most these little figures:
There were no other tourists here and with the breeze and the sun on the white gravel it was very peaceful.
Most of Nara's sites are located in Nara Kouen, a large park populated by deer that are simultaneously a mascot and a nuisance. Check out this curtain:
And compare the real deal:
The sign reads "Deer Biscuits - 150 yen" and they will cluster there, salivating until a hapless tourist buys some.
Some deer could behave themselves. Others...
They kind of add what the livestock must have added to the nativity scene. Namely, the smell.
I like that lantern because it seems to have a gourd on it.
Kasuga Taisha is a shrine at the end of a long placid walk through Kasuga-yama Primeval Forest. Convinced they were keeping some biscuits to themselves, a deer followed a family in front of me over the threshold:
And started eating the omikuji that people had tied there so the bad luck predictions written on them wouldn't follow them home. This will be one unlucky deer.
It's always interesting how most shrines and temples are at simultaneously used for tourism and religious events. I'm not sure the Japanese visitors consider there to be a difference. There were many children in elaborate wraps.
You can't tell, but this was so high up!
And then I headed for the Daibutsu, the big Buddah.
It's housed in Todaiji, the largest wooden building:
Usually when I visit a shrine or temple I feel relaxed and a detached sort of respect. A sort of "This is not my faith but I can see how close it is." This time my heart was pounding like I was about to step on the Titanic.
I can't show you in pictures. A camera can't really capture something this enormous.
And then I carefully wended my way home through the deer. If I'm ever in the area again I'll definitely visit here.