To-kae festival in Nara

11 08 2009

Walked to the train station and caught a local bus to some World Heritage temples to the south west of Nara. The first temple, Yakushi-ji, had 2 impressive pagodas on either side of the main hall. It had some interesting buddhist statues but was a bit noisy due to construction and rennovation being done on one of the main halls. The second temple that we went to visit, Toshodai-ji, was covered in scaffolding and was under rennovation. So we didn’t bother going into the grounds to see it. Then we walked along the train line to a burial mound – a large mound surrounded by a moat and covered in trees but apart from that not very exciting.

We went back to Nara central by bus and to Ashura again for lunch to try the gluten pieces curry with brown rice, domadofu, samosas and pappadums.
We went to the Nara National Museum in the afternoon after buying some yummy bread at the bakery (mango and coconut roll, cranberry and sultana roll, walnut bread and a french stick). The museum had lots of Buddhist statues from the surrounding temples and shrines, and a collection of Chinese pottery and metal works.
After the museum we got a towel at Daiso since one of ours was left in Kyoto at the hostel. We had a quick dinner and headed out for a walk to see the Nara To-kae festival (20,000 lanterns arranged around the city- It was very pretty and lots of people were out in their yukata.

Day 2 in Nara

10 08 2009

Lazy day around Nara- we needed some downtime after all the hectic travel. We slept in, had breakfast then lunch then finally went out to wander around Nara again. We went for a walk to a World Heritage Buddhist Temple near our hostel, Gango-ji. There wasn’t much English explanation of all the artworks and statues, but they did tell us that the red roof tiles were very old. Then we decided to go to the Nara museum (but it was closed). So we wandered further to a lake with a gazebo in Nara Park (and said hello to the cardboard eating deer) and then wandered along a shopping street with kimono, yukata, sweets and souvenir stores. We went for a night walk to try to find some lanterns lit as part of the Nara summer lantern festival but none were lit because it was raining in the afternoon. The 5 story pagoda was lit up at night and it looked quite good.

Nara- home of the daibutsu and deer

9 08 2009

We took the train to Nara from Kyoto, checked into the Nara-Tree Guesthouse in Naramichi historical district then had lunch at Ashura, an organic vegan-friendly place that served curry, samosas and fried croquettes with carrot juice.
Filled with fuel, we set off on a walking tour of Nara. We walked through a crafty shopping district, past the Sarusawa-like pond with turtles and koi to Kofukuji Temple and the 5 story pagoda. Then we continued past the cracker-eating deer to Todaiji Temple with the Daibutsu. It’s quite dark inside the wooden building so it’s actually almost impossible to get a photo of the giant Buddha. Benno managed to squeeze through the hole the size of the Buddha’s Nostril, again (he did it 14 years ago and is the same size now!). Then we headed up the hill to a giant bell, the Nigatsu Hall with lovely views of Nara, past Hokke-do down through the Kasugayama Primeval Forest to Kasuga Taisha Shrine which is another UNESCO site. Kasuga Taisha Shrine had moss covered stone lanterns lining the path and two men were practicing playing taiko drums while we wandered along the paths.

We ate peach flavoured shaved ice (kaki kori) and mogwort toasted mochi on the way then had sweet potato fries from a stand on the way home. We ate dinner and watched “Tokyo Godfathers”, a Japanese anime movie at the guesthouse. We would not recommend Nara-Tree guesthouse to anyone as it was really poorly run and not kept very clean. But there was air-conditioning in our bedroom at least.