A July 2004 trip
to Nara by Shannon Schiner
Quote: Nara is most well known for its Todaiji Temple with and Kasuga Shrine. Both sites are well worth a visit!
Do not miss Nara Park, it is here that you will find both the Todai-ji Temple (with the Great Buddha) and the Kasuga Shrine. These are sights that you definitely do not want to miss while in the area.
The best place to find a list of events is at the Nara Prefecture New City Hall, located almost directly in the center of Nara Park. In addition to having a nice information desk, there is also a really good western style restaurant and a Noh theater.
One of the most interesting things in the park are the hundreds of deer that roam freely throughout the area. Apparently the deer have been designated as a National Treasure. The deer are actually quite tame and accustomed to tourists feeding them…so they often come over and take a nibble out of anything they perceive as food! This is highly entertaining to watch, especially when an unsuspecting visitor has a sandwich. The deer are very perseverant and I watched as they chased more than one tourist in search of food. Actually, because of their somewhat overzealous personalities it is a good thing that they are slightly smaller than a Great Dane. The only potential problem lies with their antlers, which I imagine could be quite painfully used as persuasion to get what they want! Vendors along the walkways sell bread that you can feed to the deer.
Within the park there are also interesting displays, such as sake barrels from the companies who pay to keep up the shrine and an exhibit on horseback archery taking place the day I was there.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 21, 2004
Attraction | "Todai-ji Temple with Great Buddha"
The temple serves as not only a place to pray, but also as a center for Buddhist doctrinal research. Inside the main building are three large sculptures. The centerpiece is the Vairocana Buddha, the largest sitting bronze Buddha in the world. Originally he was made of cast bronze and then plated in gold. Now the gold is gone and all that remains is the bronze cast, which over the centuries has undergone several repairs. Nonetheless, this Buddha is an awesome sight. The sculpture is so well done and proportional that is stunning when you realize just how large it is at a height of nearly 49 ft. His head alone is nearly 18 feet high, and a person can literally fit inside of one of his nostrils.
Inside the temple it is possible to buy fortunes as well as a variety of charms for various causes. The temple is interesting and a great deal of time can be spent exploring the buildings and grounds. Definitely wear a hat or take an umbrella if you plan to visit during the summer. Although it is comfortably cool in the building, the walks outdoors are quite warm! Also, as this is one of the most popular sight in Japan, it can be quite crowded. Take this into account...and if you wish to get a good exterior shot of the main building your best bet is to stand far off to the right.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 21, 2004
Attraction | "Kasuga Shrine"
The Kasuga Shinto Shrine was built in the middle of the 8th century on land that was considered a home to the gods. Originally it was only used by the Fujiwara family because supposedly two of the gods here are said to be ancestors of the family. As with all shrines, it is not possible to photograph inside. However, it is a truly beautiful shrine. One of the elements that I found most striking were the headdresses worn by the ladies inside (selling the fortunes and charms). This is yet another popular site…perhaps best visited on a weekday. During the summer it can be warm, however fortunately there is a great deal of shade provided by the trees. Be aware that the walk is up a gravel path and it is best to wear comfortable shoes!
Nara New Public Hall