Saturday, August 28, 2010

“Even if the sun sets, I won't move from this spot.”

Some sights take no prior knowledge to be impressive -The Great Buddha of Nara is huge, Kinkakuji is shiny – while others have take some studying or delving to appreciate their value. There are temples where the object of worship, usually a statue, are locked away and have not been seen for centuries. There are castles where there is nothing left but a few foundation stones.

When it comes to the burial mounds in Nara, it would take a helicopter to get the full effect. From the air they are perfectly keyhole shaped. But even from the ground they have a certain solemn quality.

In between the two is positioned a training school for the self-defense forces, which intimidated me as I tried to stop to look at my map and realized I was in front of a heavy duty gate with a suspicious guard. Though I appreciate the symbolism of hiding your military academy between two “locks” as it were, are you sure that a tourist location which is on the map given out for free at every public business is really the best place? But perhaps they were not as big a draw to others as they were to me – there was only one other tourist walking the path.


If I were making a list of “most effective advertising campaign,” the one for Nara’s 1300 year since it was the capital of Japan would be on it. All they had to do was a slow pan of the scenery, a solemn-voiced man voice-overing, “This year’s Nara… is a special Nara” and I was there. Well, I already have a soft spot for the city, but I knew I wanted to come celebrate this summer in particular. The Imperial Audience Hall at Heijo Palace was one of the places they restored to celebrate.

Suzaku Gate in the distance. The train line actually cuts through the former palace grounds.

A rather uninspiring throne despite its elaborate box. I gather the original is kept at a museum somewhere else: 

I’m not even kneeling with my camera on the ground to get this perspective, people – the Courtyard is just. That. Huge:


The city really did a lovely job in general preparing for this anniversary – there were new benches and restrooms and watering holes and shaded plazas, there was a cart for people who couldn’t walk the distance between sites. So, you know, it was my own fault that I got a nasty sunburn there that only got compounded over the rest of the trip.

I hope their tourist trade will continue to prosper even after the anniversary year ends. Of course, if there’s one person who has done more to make me want to visit Nara repeatedly than anything could, it is naturally Tsuyoshi, Nara’s favorite son, who features it in his music videos and is featured in their documentaries and even was allowed to hold a concert on the grounds of an important temple, Yakushiji.


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