To Kyoto, via Horyuji and NaraOctober 13, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C
Super busy day today. Packed up and headed out early, catching the train eastwards for about an hour to near the city of Nara. Our first stop was the Buddhist Monuments of Horyuji WHS, where there were some important temples and pagodas to check out. Thankfully this site isn't as famous as others we've seen recently, so it was relatively quiet which was nice. Though not as quiet as the previous day of course!
Horyuji is one of the most important locations for Japanese Buddhists, and the spiritual home for one of their main sects. It's also home to what's considered to be the world's oldest wooden building! This building is a beautiful five-storey pagoda that's believed to house a fragment of Buddha's bone, though of course entry is forbidden (and I'm not even sure if it's possible). The pagoda is about 32 metres tall, and dendrochronology (ie, counting rings) suggests that the trees it's made from were felled in around 594 AD. Staggering. There's been fires at the complex in the past but it's managed to survive!
The temple itself nearby is quite nice too, with impressive statues and the typical Buddhist relics, though photos aren't permitted for a lot of it which I always find a shame. Some people can't be trusted to keep their flashes off I guess!
Back on the train where we headed to the city of Nara for more ancient temples! Nara was briefly the capital of Japan during the 12th century, and there's some important relics from that period still remaining. These are chiefly Buddhist and Shinto shrines (the two religions happily coexist in Japan as neither demands exclusivity from adherents), but also a palace and a primeval forest.
Most tourists visit Nara for the famous Deer Park which is exactly what it sounds like, and happily for us, several of the WHS temples are located inside the deer park! So we wandered over after leaving our bags in a locker at the station. Lots of deer around and they're fairly chilled out, so you can buy wafers from local vendors and feed them and pet them which is pretty cool.
Decided to focus on a few temples: Todai-ji, a large wooden building that houses the world's largest bronze Buddha statue (enormous!), Kofuku-ji which is a 7th century Buddhist temple that had been entirely dismantled and moved twice because the emperor liked it so much (!!), and Kasuga Grand Shrine which is famous for the huge number of stone lanterns outside and bronze lanterns inside. Seriously, there's thousands of them! Very pretty. And there was a wedding happening at the last temple too, which we enjoyed watching for a bit, especially when they were taking Very Serious family portraits and the bride's little niece and nephew refused to behave. Some things never change.
Wandered back through the deer park in the late afternoon sun and joined the throngs of tourists heading to the station back to Kyoto. Found our guesthouse with no dramas (though it's in an odd spot, very residential) and had our bento boxes for dinner.Read more