Day 44

Day 44. Today, we take our umbrellas and all to Nara. We walk not too late to Kyoto station, and take the Nara line special express. Nara is a small town 45 minutes away from Kyoto. It was the capital in the 8th century, and it is full of temples and shrines. We exit the station and start walking to Nara park. Arriving, we are greeted by the first of many, many deer we will encounter all day. They are laying down along a nice little pond, at the end of which we can already see a temple. We go up some stairs and reach an esplanade with a 5 stories high pagoda, and 4 or 5 temples around. And deer. But we know we won’t be able to do everything in a day, especially since temples close at 5 or 5.30 pm. We continue in the park, watching deer families with relatively small babies stroll along. A road crosses the park, but dears do not seem to respect the crossing lights. Cars have the uttermost respect for the animals, most drivers are smiling and laughing once they can get back rolling. 

It is lunchtime, we take a quick cold soba meal, a macha soft ice-cream (some deer press Samuel to share, but are then attracted to people who have deer biscuits, thankfully), and walk towards Todai-ji Chumon (Middle gate), an imposing gate. We pass the gate, not without taking some pictures, and see the Todai-ji temple complex, but no sign of the big Buddha that is supposedly in the temple. We pay the entrance fee, walk towards the main temple, walk up the stairs, and there it is. We are facing the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese as Daibutsu. And big it is. There are slightly smaller statues on each side of the Buddha hall. Todai-ji was opened in 752, but had to be reconstructed several times. Maquettes of the old versions of the temple, as believed by researchers, are displayed in the hall. The Buddha is close to 15 m high. The statue’s shoulders are 28 meters across, and there are 960 six curls atop its head! After taking this in, we exit the temple, and decide to walk up the hill to Nigatsudo, a smaller temple that used to be part of the Todai-ji complex. The place is almost empty, the building, while much smaller, is precious. And the views of the valley it provides are fantastic. We relax and drink some green tea, taking in the views. Some storms are menacing on the far side, but overall it seems the sun will resist. We discover a nice path in the hilly forest behind the temple. Along the path, many small Buddha statues. It is peaceful. 

After enjoying tremendously Nigatsudo, we walk back towards esplanade with the pagoda. It is hot, the sun is back in full, Samuel offers the UV-protective umbrella to Noe, who accepts and discovers it does make a difference with respect to a normal, rain only, umbrella. We admire the 8th century pagoda, the Kofuku-ji temple, and decide to go cool off in the national treasure hall, where some important statues and art works are well-preserved in a protective environment. There, we can admire a big sculpture of Ashura, one of the eight guardian deity figures commissioned by Empress Komyo 1,000 years ago. It is a demon god with multiple arms and faces. We can also admire the lifelike figures by master carver Unkei and his sons; the muscular Kongorikishi guardians and the rather grotesque Tentouki and Ryutouki lantern carriers. It is a rather small museum, but well worth it, and allows us to cool down.

We then pass along the Kofuku-ji Chukindou and the Nanen-do, and start walking towards the station. The kids what some Macha shaved ice, so we stop and have Macha tea with traditional sweets (adults), and Macha shaved ice (teens). We then take the first train back to Kyoto. But the kids ask us to make a stop on the way: they really want to see the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha complex and the Senbon Torii (Thousand torii). We decide to do the trek in the dark (there are lights along the way). Turns out it is a mountainous trek inside a tunnel of torii, undoubtedly more than a thousand. After many steps and hesitations, and completely wet (it is still more than 30 degrees), we reach the top. Fantastic! There are some precious views of Kyoto by night, the views are incredible by day, too, surely… but we won’t have time to come back, and previsions are that the hot weather is here to stay. We go back home, make a stop along the way to buy some bento boxes, stretch, shower, eat, and rest. 



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