Nara was the capital of Japan in the 700s and there’s an amazing amount to see left over from that period. There’s a lovely five-tiered pagoda that was original built in the mid-700s and then extensively refurbished in the relatively recent 1400s. There’s the largest wooden building in the World, itself a bit smaller that the building originally placed on the site and burnt down around 1000 years ago. Inside that huge construction is an enormous bronze Buddha. To put it in perspective, one of the towering support pillars for the roof has a hole cut through the bottom of it the same size as the Buddha’s nostril. Younger, slimmer people can slide through the hole as a path to enlightenment. The boys did not seem any more enlightened after joining local teenagers crawling through it.
According to legend, when the main temple was built a god arrived to guard it, riding on the back of a white deer. Since then, deer have been regarded as heavenly animals protecting the shrine and country. In Nara the Sika deer wander freely every where alternatively looking Bambi-like cute and turning on tourists carrying food like a flock of starving seagulls.. We joined the crowds feeding the deer and got nipped at and head-butted for our trouble. Luckily in the spring their horns are just re-growing, and so are short and rounded. But let me tell you, a deer head-butting you in the sensitive bits is a sure-fire way to you bowing down and letting them grab food from your hands.
This afternoon we went shopping for tea cups. Japan still has a very healthy artisan potter culture from what we can see. Kyoto has its own style and there’s a style particular to the very area we’re in. We baulked at tea cups for thousands of dollars even though they were beautiful, not only because we weren’t prepared to pay anywhere like that much for a cup but because the shop assistant forced the boys to sit in a chair upon entering the shop, not trusting them not to knock things over. In the end we found some lovely cups far more reasonably priced. Almost as lovely as the cups was the way the shop assistants wrapped them up with incredible care, attention and precision. Now we just have to work out how to carry them home.