Once upon a really long time ago the decision was made to make a new capital city. Although it didn’t last – 75 years they say – the Park at Nara – Nara-koen – is clearly a very popular place to have a look-see at the temples and shrines that survive that period of Japanese history. How peeved they must have been at those upstarts in Kyoto – just up the road – who were (lets imagine) smugly constructing a new capital that everyone would know about globally centuries later. (Show offs.)
Not that Nara is a secret! An easy hour from Osaka on the train it’s a well worn path with domestic and foreign vistors. There are sooo many traditional/significant/holy buildings in what is now a huge protected parkland: a splendid and rewarding way to walk up an appetite on a spring day under the cherry blossom. Additionally the park is home to countless deer that are as tame as tame can be. These are not free range meat, nor a plague you understand, but a living sculpture symbolic as messengers of the gods. I suspect if you ask youngsters what the best thing about Nara it’d be feeding sjhika-sembei (deer biccys) to these beasts.
[Although there were also countless young folk manoeuvring said deer to get every conceivable manner of selfie. Enough already. That said, they are a cut above/below are those making highly rehearsed Vogue poses. “A la modelle Rodney” as Del-Boy might say. With feelings oscillating between mirth and distaste at such runaway vanity we trip around these superficial cretins. I should also point out that there are simultaneously much sweeter self portraits going on as newly wed couples in traditional dress make very earnest romantic poses. The latter are clearly alright whilst the former are just numpties. And us doing family selfies is totes fine. Obvs. Un hypocrite? Moi?]
What would grown-ups takea way froma day here? It is worth tripping around here because the grand temple is home to Japan’s largest, the Great Bhudda. Even with the crowds it’s as close to an enlightenment this atheist is likely get stepping into the vast space where he hangs out. And even then, as robust a chap as he is, the building itself outdoes him.
Even by today’s standards the Todai-ji temple complex is huge and the Daibutsu-den hall itself? Mighty. Intimidating even. In the seventh century? It must have had the subservient classes quaking in their wooden clogs. Largest wooden building in the world they say. But wait, what’s this? Rebuilt in 1709? Sheesh: we’ve been cheated! But wait again? Rebuilt at 2/3rds original size? You’re kidding!?
With the stern rule of “we’re not bloody paying to go in there” in operation (to preserve the daily budget since you ask) we avoid the highbrow museums etcetera and stick to the walking between (free} temples/shrines. So heathens that we are we will have doubtless missed the point in all sorts of school-boy error ways. Sorry purists. But despite the crowds we take away happy memories. And deer biscuit crumbs.