Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Although based in Kyoto, Sunday was a day to be spent in Nara, just an hour away by slow train. It wasn't long after leaving the station that we spotted our first deer…. In Nara, deer are everywhere, protected, revered, vestiges of the Gods. Nara has many popular sites of interest and so we headed to the first of these on our family list of things to do in Nara. It’s a short stroll from the train station to the five storey pagoda and after taking the requisite photos (there really isn’t a lot else to do) we bought some deer cookies and meandered on through the park looking for some prey. The deer cookies had a consistency and smell very much like big flat fortune cookies, and not surprisingly Alex’s curiosity was the first to give way and by all accounts they taste like wholewheat cracker!

As we strolled through the park we didn’t have to look very hard as the deer were more or less everywhere, although their density was distinctly higher near to the cookie stands….. kind of like relationship between policemen and Tim Hortons stores.... except, unlike policemen the deer don’t have a bulging wallet to spend, all they have is their big eyes and well practiced beckoning head bobs that pass for a heartfelt PLEEEAASE, and ensure that the human sucker will give up the goods.

As lunch time came and went and Alex’s belly began to growl (nothing new here) we filled the cavern with some delicious and seriously filling baked sweet potato before finding ourselves at another temple. This one had hundreds of stone lanterns on the approach which were quite spectacular. Inside the temple (as with most of the Japanese temples that we have visited) it was possible to buy your "fortune", even in English and presented in the mouth of a little wooden deer. Lauren was so taken with these that she was allowed to choose one, but the fortune revelation must wait until her birthday…..

Our final stop on our Nara tour was Daibutsu temple, home to the world’s largest Buddha statue… maybe he’d had a few too many of the baked potatoes? We thought we’d see that in the reclining Buddha in Thailand, but had to check this one out too. We’re still not sure how “largest Buddha” is classified, but this one was certainly pretty big and portly. We suspect that the Thai version in Bangkok was maybe the “longest” but this one did seem to be bigger overall. At the entrance to the temple there are some very impressive large wooden carvings of creatures that appear to be Buddha’s guards. The other attraction behind the Buddha is a hole carved in the base of one of the supporting pillars, said to be the same diameter as big Buddha’s nostrils. It is said that if you can squeeze through the hole you will achieve enlightenment sooner. The kids were able to make it through the hole, but the Derek and Sarah didn’t. Sarah would’ve tried had it not been for the fact that whilst fooling around waiting to crawl through the hole, Alex smacked her in the face causing a nose bleed!

Having fed the last of the deer cookies to the rather overweight deer (at the end of the day most were pretty blasť about taking the offerings), we made our way to the train station and were back in Kyoto in time for dinner.

Having enjoyed our time in Kyoto, it was time to bid a fond farewell, though not until we had done a little more shopping and taken our trinkets to the post office. Again, the postal service was more efficient and less expensive than its North American cousins!

With that, we took our final Japanese train (another slow one) from Kyoto to Kobe where we spent our final night. Although Kobe probably has lots to offer, we really didn’t see too much of it. Having checked in to our hotel, and heading back down to the centre to find some dinner, we stocked up at the grocery store for our next adventure.

Early on Tuesday morning we’ll be making our way to the Kobe port terminal. Yes, that’s right, I did say port, not airport. We will be leaving Japan on a slow boat to China. The Kobe to Shanghai ferry takes 49 hours….we have (hopefully) booked a private cabin, but have learned to not get our hopes up too early on this kind of thing. See you in China in a few days time!
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countrybumpkin on

You better be wrapping up some kobe beef for my birthday...

delsar on

Sure, as long as you promise to eat it after it's been wrapped up in my backpack for two months....

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