Nara

Nara was the oldest capital of Japan (710-784) when the various clans of Honshu first agreed on having a central head of state. The old town has a main street, a mall, called Sanjodori, with shops ranging from kimonos, lacquer and pottery to touristy things. We visited the Sarusawa Ike Pond, full of well-fed turtles, then the precinct of the Five Story Pagoda and Kofukuji Temple. Then we went through the huge tori gate to the Nara National Museum, in an enormous park, home to large numbers of sacred deer, which roam around looking doefully at tourists who feed them “deer biscuits” sold there. The museum has a wonderful collection of Buddhist sculptures, all varying about symbolism, meaning and artistic styles. Next day we passed through an enormous gate built of colossal cedars in the 13th century, quite breathtaking. Then the mani attraction of Nara, the vast Daibutsu-den Hall of Todaiji Temple, the latest version from the 18th century, only two thirds the size of the original but still the largest wooden building in the world. In the temple hall is an enormous Buddha, flanked by another. We visited other temples and walked through beautiful scenery in a park-forest area, with a Shinto shrine by a pathway lined by tall stone lanterns. This is a favourite spot for weddings and baptisms, usually with all the works, kimonos and costumes for the kids. We spent time in the local shops looking at lacquer ware in particular and celadon ware using beautiful glazes. That night we enjoyed a traditional meal of Kaiseki dishes, special to Nara, numerous dishes served in small amounts, elegantly presented on exquisite bowls or plates, an art form, served by geisha girls. Great!
On to our favourite place Kyoto.

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