Today Yasu tagged along with us Dutchies, and he took his family’s car to drive us to Nara, the ancient capital city of Japan. We went there to see a super Buddha in a temple and lots of tame deer on the streets. According to legend some mythical Shinto god arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital in the first century. Ever since then deer have been regarded as heavenly animals there to protect the city and the country.
So Sika deer roam the streets of Nara freely and they are mostly considered tame, except when the deer notice you have some shika sembei a.k.a. ‘deer biscuits’ on you. The deer love these thin round cookies (I wonder what’s in them) and they will nudge and shove you pretty hard if they see you you’ve got some of the deer food. I heard sometimes they even bite, but that didn’t really happen to us… except when one deer mistakenly thought that Guido’s bright red fan was a deer biscuit and totally deformed it by trying to take a big bite out of the plastic device. Even though the deer have no problem convincing tourists to hand over all their biscuits with some bodily contact they never dare bothering the numerous snack vendors selling these biscuits, I guess they’ve trained the deer by pulling out a whip every time a deer gets near their merchandise. All the biscuits we bought the deer made them pretty thirsty so Yasu decided to share his water with the deer, who drank it from a cup in his hands.
The Japanese love buying souvenirs, especially local snacks, to bring home for their friends and coworkers. Obviously, touristic cities like Nara have no problem catering to these needs and sell numerous kinds of snacks and candies. And the most popular would have to be the easiest to come by in deer laden Nara, deer doodies. I mean who wouldn’t want to receive a bag of delicious bambi droppings? Of course, frugal tourists can just collect their own deer manure in Nara Park, but this shop has already done the bothersome work for you and even put the excrement in a pretty gift bag for you:
On our way to Todaiji (Eastern Great Temple), another World Heritage site, we passed a National Treasure named Nadaimon or the Great South Gate. This gate is very old but that’s not what’s scary about it, it’s the two more-than-800-years-old, more-than-8-meters-tall, wooden Nio guardians inside the gate that will give you the creeps.
After being scared enough by those two huge statues we continued our way to Todaiji, where they were, like any decent shrine and temple in Japan, burning incense in a big vase at the entrance. And like always the smoke has magic properties, waved at your head the smoke will make you smarter, waved at your midriff it will make you healthier and according to Yasu waved at your crotch it will make you hornier…
The incense smoke became to much to bear, especially in this heat, so it was finally time for my family to meet Mr. huge ass Buddha inside the Buddhist Temple. The 16 meter tall statue was completed in 751 and to give some perspective on its size: one of his fingers is the size of a human… The head you see here is a little bit newer, as the original head suddenly fell off in 855 and a new better-seated head had to be built, I guess they did a much better job because it’s still sitting there in 2008. And in 1994 Bon Jovi among others (like a Buddhist monk choir) performed here at an international music festival called ‘The Great Music Experience’.
A typical Japanese summer beverage is ramune. It’s a carbonated soft drink sold in very special bottles, called Codd-neck bottles (after the British inventor Hiram Codd). They are glass bottles and sealed with a marble, which is held in place by the carbon dioxide in the drink. To open it you have to push the marble inward where it rattles while you drink ramune. When you hold the bottle upside down the marble blocks the flow, which is fun but can also make it hard to finish the drink.
Next was food, it was too late for lunch and to early for dinner, but we were super hungry and after an extensive search for a restaurant that would serve all the different cravings of all the different people in our party, we finally sat down at two tables (they didn’t have a table for 5) in Sato, which advertizes itself as a Japanese (oh really?) restaurant. They have an extensive menu. Shabu shabu, sukiyaki, karaage, sushi, tempura, donburi, soba, miso soup, ginger pork and even fries were ordered, and we had a big Japanese feast. Everybody was happy.
We ended the day with some shopping at a mall, where we bought more ramune and souvenirs for people at home, drank coffee at Starbucks (yay) and of course took some purikura of the 5 of us. Unfortunately, we’re having a hard time finding the machines that’ll send you all 6 pictures for free to your cell phone, but hey at least they send us 2 pictures to share with you:
It was another tiring, but fulfilling day, and it was fun to have Yasu around again. Tomorrow, we’re taking a Shinkansen to Aichi, to check out Nagoya and Inuyama. Can’t wait to show them around there, and introduce them to some of my friends.