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Monday, October 02, 2017

For those who know Japanese, this sentence can't mean anything but "nothing but deers!"

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Nara is famous for the presence of a countless number of deers in the eastern side of the city, once the public gardens that were part of the original plan of the city, now extended to comprise all the area of the temples and part of the surrounding mountains.

Yet, seeing this wild and usually very shy animals going around the town poking at tourists for the (regulated and controlled) deer-biscuits you can buy for 200 yen in a pack of five, is always a bewildering sight.

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Most of them also seem to like being petted, especially by the children, which the younger deer seem to actively be searching for, even if they rarely, if ever, get a biscuit from them.
But Nara has much more to offer than deers. One interesting "feature" of this city is the amount of small shops hosted in otherwise normal houses. They are mostly tea houses or small restaurants. Many. A lot. I mean, I don't think I could visit them all in one year, changing place at each meal.

And then, the road that has now become the main one, leading to the temples of Shukufuku and Toudai, and to the shrine of Kasuga, is packed with shops and traverses the local commercial center.

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The impression is that the area might be half than the one occupied by Osu in Nagoya, but the shops are so small that it looks much richer and more varied.

While the town looks small, the temple area has really majestic proportions. First, I walk in the Shukufuku temple, known for its tall pagoda.

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Here I receive the first real cultural shock since the beginning of my travel.

Nara - Buddhist - Temples - sell... mamori!

I mean, they sell mamori! Without mikos! ... I shake my head and mourn whspering an Italian sentence than means "we live hard times": "non c'è più religione" (which literally means "There's no religion anymore!" which captures very well the sense of my feelings...)

And then I move to the famous Toudaiji, which held the record for the biggest Buddha statue in the world, and still holds the record for the biggest wooden building. Indeed, the sight is majestic:

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But my interest for the Toudai isn't limited to the famous building and Buddha statue: this is another place I used as a stage in my novel, and I had to fill the description of the gardens and the administrative area with intuition and fantasy, as there aren't many images of this less touristic locations. This is strange, as they are absolutely worth a visit:

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and the view from the monastic and administrative area, laid uphill on the first slopes of the Wakakusa mount are even more worth:

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In this case too, I am delighted to see how my depictions matched the actual place.

Cleared the main necessities, it's time for the big piece. In the literal sense.

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The image doesn't pay justice to the sheer awesomeness of this sight, as everything is out of proportions. The pine branches decorating the table are not branches: they are trees. This one, taken from the side, shows how the hand is about the size of an adult man.

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The original statue, in 710 C.E. was fully plated of gold -- that alone was a strain on the finances of the small Yamato empire that would have caused many troubles in the following years. Pitifully, the statue was destroyed in the first half of 1100, during the war between the Taira and the Minamoto. Other than this statue, the temple lost its two majestic pagodas, about 100 meters high. This reconstruction is at a side of the pavilion:

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The model is not the only thing in the pavilion. Besides the entrance ticket, this temple raises a good deal of money with the souvenir stands placed directly in the temple. Thinking that this religion didn't fell in the mistake of driving the money changers out of the temple, I buy a mamori and get back to the town.

Indeed, the religion sense must be somewhat practical. I have already seen shrines between the houses, but this is the first time I see one directly inside a nighttime pub:

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But the best is yet to come: as I search for a place where to have some food, I find a coffee shop whose manager seem to be very attached to their ancestry, as they have a little cemetery right besides the entrance:

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Notice the touch of class, a glass window strategically placed so that the customers can find delight in the merry sight while sipping their teas and coffees from inside the shop.

But, tomorrow is another day. I will visit the ruins of the Imperial Palace, pass by a couple of Emperor tombs, visit the Kasuga shrine and finally climb the Wakakusa mount.

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