It was a morning we could have been tempted to stay in bed till midday nursing our fuzzy heads due to being plied with sake, wine, beer and brandy the night before when Taka, our Osaka host and fuzzy head culprit got up to take us to Nara. Who doesn’t love a road trip?! And in classic road trip style the first stop was the 7/11 for some sausage muffins.
Nara is a popular tourist attraction due to the hundreds of friendly Sika deer that are free to roam wherever they please. In the Shinto religion the Sika deer are considered to be messengers of the Gods, so their existence is fully protected by religious beliefs and by the state, which regards them as a national treasure. In the rest of Japan, deer are seen as a destructive pest and culled aggressively, but Nara is a haven where deer beg for the rice bran cookies vendors sell to tourists. Some of the deer have even learnt how to bow for treats just as a dog would learn to give you their paw.
From 710-784AD Nara was the first permenant capital of Japan and what is an eastern capital city without temples. So, after we had finished bowing to deers we did a temple tour of the area. Nanto Shichi Daiji which literally translates to ‘The 7 great temples of Nanto’ (Nanto meaning Nara) is the name given to the 7 Buddhist temples found in Nara:
- Todaiji (Great Eastern Temple)
- Saidaiji (Great Western Temple)
- Daianji (Great Peace Temple).
Despite dating back as far as 1400 years, the temples have been kept in immaculate condition. Of course to be kept so well they have had some restoration work through the years however, all but 2 (Gangoji and Daianji) of the temples still hold some their original structure.
If you would like to read more about the 7 temples of Nara click here