An Escapade in Japan -- Part 7

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Asia » Japan
March 17th 2009
Published: March 17th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

Todaiji Temple, Nara Park, Nara

My notes for 24th Feb. has this entry :
Show Avinash the highlights of Kyoto - Kinkakuji, Nijo Castle, Sanjusangendo, Kiyomizudera.

All this sightseeing was already over and today Avinash had only a half-day session at the conference. That meant that we could squeeze in half a day’s sightseeing yet.

We decided to go to Nara in the afternoon.

In the morning, while Avi was in the conference, I walked to the nearby Heian shrine and then further to the Handicrafts center and bought a Polyester kimono. I preferred the polyester material because it resembles silk but can be washed at home. Silk needs dry-cleaning. Cotton kimonos would have been alright for Mumbai weather but the fabric was thick and heavy and costs almost as much as a silk or polyester kimono. All in all, buying a kimono is an expensive proposal.

Polyester would be OK for me because I planned to use the kimono as a heavy-duty housecoat.

This kimono that I bought was in total contrast to the delicate peach, silk one that I had seen. This practically assaults the eyes with its garish colors - bright magenta-colored (what we call ‘rani’ color) flowers on a black background with white cranes flying about.

I still hankered after the pale peach silk kimono and decided to buy that ALSO but alas, the shop was closed.

Avinash did come back early that day and we took the hotel-shuttle to the Kyoto station and the train to Nara and the bus to Nara Park.

A lot has been written about the free-roaming deer in the Nara Park. They have become so tame that they will actually eat from your hand. However, they are quite aggressive animals, especially the bucks and might butt you if you are carrying food in your hands. To avoid injury to the tourists, the shrine authorities have cut off their antlers.

Moreover, these deer are quite different from the animal that we call ‘deer’ because they are of a uniform, dull, dun color without any white spots, except at an unmentionable place. Two large, circular white patches adorn their rumps.

Sita certainly would not have asked for a deerskin from these deer and the whole Ram-Ravan war could have been avoided. Here, of course I am assuming that Sita had good taste in clothes. Apparently she had, since she insisted that Ram should go and kill the golden deer so that she can have a nice deer-skin to wear.

(I am always amused by pictures of ‘Sita in Ashokawan’, in which she is depicted, wearing a cotton saree and the female guards are shown, wearing animal-skins. I think it would be more realistic if it is shown the other way around, i.e. Sita should be wearing a deer-skin - obviously she was fond of deer-skins -- and her female guards should be wearing cotton sarees. However, I suppose Art need not be realistic.)

I suppose I am being unfair to the Nara deer, but I have a reason. I saw them ganging up to attack the guide-dog of a blind man and took an instant dislike to them. The poor dog was cowering till the tourists came to his rescue and shooed the deer away.

(Here, I confess to a bit of perversity in my nature. If a deer was being attacked by a group of hunting dogs, my sympathy would have been with the deer and I would have found the dogs’ behavior obnoxious.)

I was so incensed with them that I passed unfavorable comments about their behavior as well as their physical appearance, the white patches on their rump being the primary target of my censure.

Avi must always take an opposite side of every argument.

“Why are you passing comments about their private parts? Probably they also find the back pockets on our jeans quite unattractive, but are they passing any judgment on our rumps?” he asked.

“How do you know they are NOT passing comments on the tourists? That bunch of female deer looks quite gossipy to me. Those bucks too look as though they are making snide remarks about the rumps of female tourists.” I countered.

Avi had no answer to that.

The glow of this verbal victory propelled me towards the huge Todaiji temple without any complaints about tiredness.

The Todaiji temple houses the biggest idol of Buddha in Japan. It is also world’s largest wooden temple.
The surroundings - the pond, the smaller shrines and the lawns are so immaculate that it is a real pleasure to see them.

Since the words cannot describe it, I will let the photos talk.

As we were coming out of Todaiji temple, we met Mr. P, who, again had come for the conference and was now taking a tour of Nara. Thanks to him we now have some good photos of Avinash in Japan.

Mr. P was taking an evening flight back to India on 25th (the next day) and so had a little time in the morning but did not know what else to visit in Kyoto, since he had taken that ‘Kyoto-Darshan’ bus, which had covered all the major touristic sights in Kyoto.

We too were going to Tokyo on 25th evening and had a ‘free’ morning in Kyoto. We had planned to visit the Kitano Tenmangu shrine and watch the ‘Baikasai’. However there was a little uncertainty about whether the shrine will hold the tea-ceremony if it was raining because it was to be held in an open plum-grove.

Past 2-3 days had been cloudy and rainy.

Anyway, we gave Mr. P. the idea and the knowhow of visiting Kitano Tenmangu shrine on the morning of 25th Feb and watching ‘Baikasai’.

As almost all shrines close at about 5:00 PM, we could not visit other shrines in the Nara area and came back to the hotel catching the last shuttle from the Kyoto station to the hotel.

Additional photos below
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