The weather finally cleared up for us on Thursday, May 1. To take advantage of the beautiful weather, Mom, Bro, and I took the 30 minute train from Kyoto Station to Nara! Nara is a prefecture rich in Japanese history, with the city of Nara actually being one of the early capitals of Japan. Nara is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it was definitely on our list of places to see.
We got off the train and walked to Nara Park where we were immediately greeted by dozens of deer! They roamed the park freely – in olden times, they were thought to be sacred and divine animals, although today they’re just national treasures – although these guys weren’t as docile as the ones we saw on Miyajima. In Nara, it’s a popular thing to buy shika senbei (deer biscuits) to feed the deer, so they’ve become quite pushy and nippy. I bought a pack of biscuits and I did feed some of the deer, but I was too chicken about being bitten and ended up giving the rest of my biscuits to Bro and taking pictures instead! The deer were unbelievably cute, though! Once we got away from the main entrance, the deer were friendlier (probably because there weren’t as many people feeding them in this area) and we got to take some pictures up close.
We continued through the park and made our way to the grounds of Toudaiji, a large famous Buddhist temple that is one of the UNESCO “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara.” We walked through huge wooden gates and finally came to Daibutsuden (literally “Big Buddha Hall”), home to one of the largest bronze Buddha statutes in the world at over 15 m tall! The current building dates from 1709 and was the world’s largest wooden building until 1998. It was so impressive, going through the doors and seeing the architecture – and the huge Buddha! The Daibutsuden building itself is so big that it feels like it was made for giants.
We wandered through the Daibutsuden for a while and then made our way back out to the grounds of Toudaiji and the rest of Nara Park. After doing some souvenir shopping, we returned to Kyoto. Too tired to do more sightseeing but still having the whole evening in front of us, we went back to the Aeon Mall to continue shopping! We did call it an early night, though, and headed back to the hotel to tidy up and start packing – we were off to Yamanashi Prefecture and Mt. Fuji the next day!
Looking back, we had so many things that we wanted to do in the Kyoto area that we just didn’t have the time for, between the lousy weather and all of our wonderful day trips. I’m definitely going to return to Kyoto before I leave Japan to finish what Mom, Bro, and I started and give this culturally rich area of Japan the touristing it deserves! :)