My computer is finally back from being repaired, which means a new post for the segment #ErinDoesJapan! This time I am taking you to Nara, the once short-lived capital of Japan. As mentioned before, I was traveling throughout Japan with my good friend Emiko, who happened to have many friends and family throughout the country! We met up with her cousin and his wife who live just outside Nara and they took us around Nara for the day.
Nara is located less than an hour from Osaka via train and even less from Kyoto. If short on time, Nara can easily be done in a day, but is home to some traditional Japanese-style hotels if interested, but they come at a price. Our first stop, despite being there for a day trip only, was in fact the Nara Hotel, one of the most historic hotels in all of Japan. The Nara Hotel has a long list of famous celebrities, diplomats, and royalty that have stayed at the hotel since it first open in 1909, including Audrey Hepburn, Richard Nixon, and even Charlie Chaplin! Pictures of the the famous guests line the hallways of the old hotel. While I, as most, couldn’t afford to stay there, their lunch is much more affordable and a great way to see this stunning hotel.
Next stop was the Todai-ji Temple, a giant Buddha Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to one of the largest Buddha’s I have ever seen! Construction started in 728 but wasn’t completed until a quarter of a century later. Unfortunately, as the structure is almost made entirely out of wood, a couple fires have plagued and destroyed parts of it, but they have rebuilt it. While it is smaller than it used to be, it is still impressively big to harbor a giant Buddha!
While you might not have heard of the Nara Hotel and Todai-ji Temple, what you may have heard of is the deer. Deer are revered in Nara, as a mythological god came down on a white deer to protect the capital, and ever since deer are seen as holy. They are allowed to roam freely throughout Nara, with many of them located at Todai-ji Temple, and it is illegal to harm a deer! My favorite thing about the deer is the fact that they bow. YES! Actually bow. Maybe some stereotypes are kind of true?! The deer are not skittish around people and will come up to anyone and everyone. If you bow to it, it will bow back to you, but be prepared, you will have to give it a treat otherwise it will go after you. Anything you are holding, food, water, maps, they will try and grab and believe me it is a losing battle. They also understand what pockets are and will try and dig into them, I know from first hand experience. Luckily, there are vendors on the street with “deer biscuits” that you can buy, (this may have been why the were after my pockets…) Do not worry, they won’t harm you and are smaller than “North American” deer. I had so much fun bowing and having them bow back, even if they nipped my jacket!
As you can tell, unfortunately it was quite rainy and cold for an April day, so we of course spent the rest of the time drinking tea, trying on Kimonos, and, of course, shopping! There are a lot of cute stores in Nara and we visited Higashimuki Shopping Street which is completely covered and saved us from the rain. Most of the stores are small boutiques, selling things made in Nara or only found in Nara. Seeing as it is the “City of Deer” (my nickname for it) they had a lot of deer–related things, which meant I was in kitchy–heaven and that my wallet was in trouble. I got several table runners to be used for wall decorations, shirts, keychains, and these ridiculously amazing deer hoodies that we got to wear to Disney
and something a twenty-six year old probably shouldn’t be wearing but who cares!
Overall it such a wonderful day with Emiko’s family and seeing Nara! If you have time whilst visiting Japan, I definitely suggest you that you visit. It is definitely quite an “endeering” place. 🙂