If Nara City in Western Japan is know for anything it is the Big Buddha and for the hundreds of wild deer roaming the streets. If there ever was a popularity contest I wonder who would win, the temple or the deer? Although I have never really had the time to focus an hour or so to taking photos of the deer it is hard to miss them just walking through the city and I took these snaps as I visited Nara a couple of years ago. Nara is one of my favorite places in Japan and I am always looking for excuses to visit. It is also a good place to base yourself for tourism to western Japan if the Kyoto hotels are full or the big city feel of Osaka is too intimidating. Nara is full of the old time small city charm even though there are close to 340 000 people living there.
One of the greatest tourist attractions in Japan is the Nara Daibutsu, a huge buddha statue housed in the famous temple of Todaiji in Nara City, Nara Prefecture. Apart from the big statue itself there are plenty of smaller statues scattered around the main hall of the temple. The atmosphere is fantastic, air thick with incense smoke, prayers bells and the sunlight filtering in through the high windows. Well, at least if you go off season and on a weekday. Weekends and high season tends to get quite crowded especially recently with the absolute boom in overseas tourism.
There is statuary of all kinds of materials, millennium old wood carvings, bronzes and clay to name a few materials. If you have the opportunity to visit, spare a few minutes for the “other” art treasures of the Todaiji!
One of the most tourist friendly cities in Japan is Nara, famous for its many deers, huge parks, massive temples and last but certainly not least, the Daibutsu, the big Buddha statue at the Todaiji temple. The main temple building was constructed in the 8th century A.D., but it has been rebuilt twice du to fires. The present structure is from 1709 and it was the largest wooden building in the world until 1998. Unfortunately none of these photos gives any hint of how large the statue really is, but at 15m he is similar in height to a normal four storey building. Next time I will make sure I have enough time there to get some decent photos!
On the slopes of Mount Wakakusa in Nara you’ll find the Nigatsudo (二月堂), one of the auxiliary tamples of the great Taodaiji (where you’ll find the great buddha of Nara). It was built in 752 but the original building burned down in 1667, so the present building is only about 350 years old. The main building of the temple holds two large buddha statues but as these “hibutsu”, or secret buddha, they are never shown to the public. On the 12th of March every year the temple holds a large service that I have yet to see in person.