Japan day 4

  Day 4 was a long one! A customer back home in Scotland had a problem which had me awake and busy working from 3am.

Around 6am I finished with the work issue but by then it was too late to sleep so I made a start on the plans for today instead…

Just after 8am I stepped off the train in Nara, ancient capital of Japan and home to some 1000 shika deer which roam freely around the nara park area thanks to their status as “messengers of the gods”

Last time I visited Nara I spent most of the time at the Todai-ji Buddhist temple, home to a huge bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, and only afterwards discovered the Shinto Kasuga Grand Shrine which sits further from the town centre.  Today I reversed the plan and made straight for Kasuga and I have to say it was a brilliant idea! 

When I arrived at the Shrine it was almost deserted. A handful of locals were walking in the forests, and a small procession of Shinto priests chanted prayers within the shrine, but otherwise, apart from the deer, I had the entire area to myself. 

There was something almost hypnotic about listening to the chanting priests, surrounded by stone lanterns and watching the deer graze peacefully in the forest, so I spent a while just sitting or wandering aimlessly, silently snapping away as the low sun spilled into the dark forest illuminating the early morning mist and throwing golden shafts of light across the forest floor, picking out tiny details in the darkness. 

After visiting several shrines in the forest I made my way back out through Nara Park to Todai-ji Temple.

I’ve already visited the temple on my previous two visits so today I restricted my visit to the exterior of the temple and concentrated on the autumnal colours in the park and, of course, the shika deer.

After Todai-ji I planned to revisit the traditional Japanese garden of Yoshikien which i visited last summer as I was interested to see how the changing season had affected the gardens but on the way there i discovered another garden, Isui-en, so decided to see that first. 

As they were quiet a japanese lady, who’s english was far better than my japanese, kindly offered to guide me part way around the garden and show me some of the more interesting sites. Without her guidance I wouldn’t have noticed the 70cm high entrance to the traditional tea house which was designed to force everyone, regardless of their social status, to kneel as equals before receiving the tea ceremony. I liked that idea. 

The views from Isui-en across Todai-ji and the distant mountains were stunning, made all the more so by blood red acer and maple trees in the garden and dotted around the distant hills. 

After Isui-en it was literally next door to Yoshikien gardens. These gardens are free to foreign visitors and so when I approached the ticket office I was asked the standard questions: where are you from? To which I replied Scotland, UK then the lady asked if I knew the gardens were free before I arrived. I answered that I did as I had visited last September. The lady instantly looked up from her paperwork, smiled and said “welcome back, we have been expecting you, enjoy” 

A nice touch I thought.

The gardens were beautiful as before and, as you would expect, different in the autumn. The moss garden had changed more subtly than the water garden and the flower garden, as expected, lay almost bare as it braced itself for the coming winter.

As I left the gardens a strange thing happened. A deer made straight for me, stopped directly in front of me, and bowed! 

I’d seen deer do that at the temple once before as a way of getting food but this one had no reason to suspect I had any food (which I hadn’t) and it passed several other visitors on the way to get to me.

It has since been suggested that this is the one that bit me on the backside on my first visit seeking forgiveness!  I kinda liked that idea! 

After my encounter with the messenger of the gods it was back onto the train for the journey to Minoh park on the outskirts of Osaka. 

Unfortunately the autumn colours at Minoo weren’t as dramatic as Id hoped but I made the 5.5km round trip up to the 100ft waterfalls anyway and was glad I made the effort. 

With the sun slipping behind the hills, the area around the falls was very quiet, especially when compared to my last visit, so I was able to take a lot more photos than I had done before.

After a brisk walk back down the hill, I was back on the train to Namba via Umeda and a nice meal of gyoza and ramen before bed.

The only disappointing thing about today was that they have removed the beer vending machines from along the walking route! I noticed that there has been a change in the selling of alcohol since last year in the shops so I presume it’s linked to that. Shame that, but understandable if the old system was being abused in some way.

So, I get to do it all again tomorrow! I have three visits planned for tomorrow, two locations ive already been to and one brand new site.

Read all about it tomorrow! 

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