So in my previous blog I mentioned a kickass LA chick (Laci) that was my hostel roomie that I really had fun with. She is gorgeous, a spitfire, sarcastic, and has a dry sense of humor which I completely respect and love. We didn’t have all that much time together as she was getting ready to leave to Osaka and I was sticking around in Kyoto for a few days, but we both wanted to visit Nara and it is between both Kyoto and Osaka so we agreed to meet there a few days later.
I have only been to Nara once before, which was when I lived here in 2003-2004. I remember first arriving at a teeny station and having to walk quite some distance along cobblestoned streets to get to the hostel I was staying at. It felt very remote and all of the houses seemed to be out of a samurai movie set hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
During this first visit I remember the weather as it was pouring rain, which sounds awful, but I actually got some of my favorite pictures during my year in Japan in Nara. I wish I had a copy with me to post, but it was the rain pouring off all of these gorgeous roofs with amazing designs and those rain chains Japan is infamous for. The shrines and temples had an ethereal beauty with the rain and mist encompassing them and it was so beautiful!
And yes, the deer everywhere made an impression as well. Also another favorite picture of mine is where it looks as if they are shopping just like us humans as they were in a shop eyeing things. They were not too interested in humans or human interaction which I was happy to see.
My how things have changed! The train station is much bigger and now the area surrounding it is covered with shops and restaurants. The amount of visitors was staggering- last time I hardly saw another tourist and now there were probably thousands around the smallish town!
But the worst change? The deer 😳😳😳!!! Holy balls they are suuuuuper aggressive now- to the point there are signs everywhere cautioning you as to what they could do. I was carrying a small plastic bag with a bottle of water and a sealed bag of chips. Apparently this was just too much for one very aggressive deer (who I named Bud). Bud decided he needed whatever was in my bag and walked up to me and latched on to that bag for deer (😂😂 couldn’t resist) life and played tug-o-war with me. Bud got a mouth full of plastic and I got to carry the water and chips for the rest of the day. I would be OK if someone wanted to make deer jerky out of Bud 🙈. I know we humans are to blame for creating Bud though as now you can buy *deer stamped crackers* for super cheap to feed the deer. Needless to say, the deer are a hot mess. Laci did get one to bow for her with her bribery (aka deer cookie) skills 😂.
Next up was the Great Buddha, probably one of the most famous Buddha statues in all of Japan. On our way there in front of the huge fortress that Buddha calls home, we came across about 50 Japanese school children singing songs- here is the super cool part- with a young GIRL as the conductor!! How cool is that?! Who runs the world? GIRLS! Yeah, that is right 🙌🏼🙌🏼👌🏼👌🏼💪🏼.
When they were finished we meandered over to the Great Buddha and what an impressive sight he is. As for how huge he is- think freaking ginormous and then bigger than that 😁. He was also supported by two other deities on each side. Towards the back corner there is a long lineup of kids and I vaguely remember there is some hole you can crawl through for good luck (or so I thought). After googling what the heck is going on, I found the following:
“Nothing more than a small, square hole in the base of one of the temple’s great wooden pillars, the so-called “nostril” is said to grant a degree of enlightenment in the next life to any worshipper who can fit through it. The magic hole takes its name from the belief that the tiny tunnel is as large as one of the nostrils on the giant Buddha statue sitting under the same roof. While no one has measured the actual size comparison between the Buddha’s nose and the hole in the column, nor can anyone verify the exact nature of the enlightenment granted by the architectural oddity, yet small-hipped visitors from around the world continue to get down on all fours to seek the wisdom of the Buddha’s nose hole.”
You see, only small children can actually fit through this hole. So I guess all of us not children sized are SOL 😊.
After fighting through the hundreds and hundreds of visitors and crazed deer, Laci and I were ready to leave Nara. As we were making our way back into town we were stopped twice by Japanese elementary school children who were on assignments to practice their English and they were adorable. Questions such as “what is your favorite Japanese anime” came across to us as “what is your favorite Japanese animal” so the kids were quite puzzled with our answers of cat and rabbit and we were puzzled as to why our favorite animals were country specific 😂. Their teachers came up and thanked us after each round of questioning along with the kids multiple thank you’s which was adorable!
On our way back to the station, Laci said she had to try the famous mochi. There is a shop there still making mochi as it was made since creation by one person flipping the mochi while the other comes down with a huge wooden masher thingy- if you time it wrong lets just say your hands would be completely worthless for the rest of your life. Although it may look easy, it is a precise and challenging feat and we were lucky enough to watch them in action!
Site where I found the Nara nostril info: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/buddha-s-nostril