Nara is the original capital of the Japanese nation, and it has some of Japan's major shrines and temples, as well as hordes of overly friendly deer. The train ride took about 40 minutes from one old capital to another.
Within five minutes of exiting the station, we saw our first deer. The deer in Nara are sacred to Shinto belief, and so they are allowed to roam freely throughout the area. That first deer was very friendly and even licked my hand, but it could not prepare us for the eventual onslaught of peaceful animals. We continued on along a walkway seated next to a park that could only be described as infested with deer. Big old dudes with huge antlers, pretty fawns, and baby deer. As we walked along the route, we were exposed to their incredible friendliness and willingness to interact. It was like a park of friendly dogs, except you had to watch your step. I stepped in something.
While seeing the deer was fun, it got interesting when we started feeding them. Along the street they sell senbei, or rice crackers, specially made for the deer. Upon buying senbi to feed the deer, we found that the deer were friendly only to wait for this moment. All the deer seemed to descend upon us, and for me, they chased me around trying to eat my food. Everyone that bought senbei would eventually be mobbed.
After that we explored several temples and shrines, including Todai-ji, a huge wooden structure that houses an unbelievably large statue of Buddha. It was kind of ridiculously big.the building was mainly supported by large pillars scattered throughout, and one pillar had a small hole cut through the center. We were told that the whole is roughly the size of the buddha's nostril, and if you could pass through it, you would be blessed with longevity. It was a tight fit, but somehow I made it through.
We went to two more shrines, and during the hike up a mountain in the humidity, we stopped to get ice cream. There were all kinds of flavors that you can't get in America, but I was boring and just got chocolate. One person, who will not be named, got three ice cream cones. I think we were looked at as a little crazy.
Next we went to a museum which explained the history of Buddha statues, and had examples hundreds of years old. While at the museum, we decided to have lunch. I ate some curry. It was good.
We went to another shrine (there were a lot of shrines) and before we knew it, we were departing for Kyoto and an hour long train ride to Kyoto. We were so tired that the trip could be described as grueling, and we took turns falling asleep and having our cohorts take pictures of us sleeping on the train.
In Kyoto, Sensei took us to a mall, which was much different and a lot nicer than an American mall. While waiting for our dinner reservation, we wandered the mall and bought souvenirs for people back home. Dinner was very interesting. Like yesterday's shabu shabu, you cooked the meal at your table. However, instead of cooking healthy meat and vegetables in a light broth, this involved deep fryers at the table. They had a wide selection of things on skewers that you would tak back to the table, batter, and then deep fry. It was as delicious as it sounds.
We kept getting interviewed by elementary school kids
Todaiji and the great Buddha
On the way to Kasuga Taisha