April 2015 - Vikingess Voyages

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sakura Season: Weekend Trip to Nara

10:30:00 PM
During the last couple of weeks I've had a visit from my mother and grandmother, and while I've been busy with work during the weekdays we did take some small trips during their weekends here.
For the first weekend we took the Shinkansen bullet train down to Kyoto, where we changed to the JR line heading for the ancient capital Nara. Despite having lived two years in Kyoto this was actually my first time visiting Nara.. Just about time for a visit then, one could say.!
Sakura flowers by the Himuro Shrine 
We were visiting Nara early in the cherry blossom (sakura) season, and luckily there was one small shrine along the way to famous Todai-ji (東大寺) temple called Himuro Shrine (氷室神社) where the flowers already were blooming. Apparently this shrine has a history stretching back to year 710, and it is also known for having some of Nara's earliest cherry blossoms.
We also found some other cherry blossom trees by some of Nara's famous temple buildings. Among them was, as mentioned, Todai-ji. In the picture below you can see Todai-ji and a blooming sakura tree.

Todai-ji in itself is one of the main temple buildings in Nara, and is of course a must to visit if you have the chance to travel here. With what is known as the world's largest wooden building the main hall known as the Daibutsuden (or the Big Buddha Hall) was a marvelous sight. We all felt pretty small in front of the gigantic bronze Buddha statue inside the hall called the Great Buddha (Daibutsu). It weighs 500 metric tonnes, and is the largest bronze statue of Buddha in the world.
The Great Buddha
But there are other things to see besides the temples in Nara. In fact, Nara is pretty well-known for its many deers. Nara's yuru-kyara is in fact a deer with Buddha-head (although just like Ishikawa-ken's mascot hyakuman-san he is struggling with his lack of popularity, it seems he just isn't kawaii enough for the Japanese people..). In the Shinto religion deers have been regarded as messengers of the gods, and in Nara the deers roam the grounds as they please. Tourists can buy them snacks, and we saw a lot of fat deers that seemed to have eaten too much of the snacks they are fed by tourists. Although the deer of course are wild animals and might butt you if you tease them they are generally used to people and very friendly. Yuma and I used the opportunity to take some selfies with them, and it didn't seem like they minded.
You can write your wish on a deer-shaped ema (絵馬)
A lazy deer that had gotten too much food from tourists

The deers are literarily lined up to greet you.
The deers aren't shy, and will do what they can to make you give them food
While we did spent most of our time in Nara roaming around in the parks and visiting temples our main reason for the short visit to Nara wasn't just the sightseeing. My boyfriend proposed to me at the end of last year, but our parents still hadn't had the chance to meet each other. This time my mother and grandmother had the chance to meet Yuma's parents for a nice lunch at an old ryokan (Japanese traditional style inn)/restaurant called Kikusuiro.
The entrance to Kikusuirou
The building dates back to the late 19th century, and along with the restaurant and hotel business they also arrange weddings here. I have added some pictures from our lunch below:
The view from the second floor
Family picture
Our trip to Nara was very short, but we still got to see a lot in only two days. Most of the places we went by were quite typical tourist attractions, but for people visiting who are interested in eating at a historical Japanese restaurant I would definitely recommending stopping by Kikusuirou.

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Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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