Nara, a small town, which used to be the capital of Japan before Kyoto, famous with traditions and Japan culture. A center of Budism art and literature, a Unesco world heritage and a heaven for photographers. It is about 1,5 hours drive from Kyoto by bus, so be ready for an early day, to make sure you have enough time in Nara.
Our first stop was Horyu-Ji temple, one of the oldest wooden structures of the world. Founded in 607 to promote Budism.
The central gate is guarded by Japan’s two oldest statues of Kongo Rikishi, the pair of muscular deities often seen flanking large temple gates. The main hall houses some of Japan’s oldest statues of Buddha, rare creations surviving from the Asuka Period. Visitors can witness the evolution of Japanese Buddha statues by visiting the nearby great lecture hall (Daikodo) which exhibits statues from the Heian Period (794-1185) and have lost the more Indian appearance of earlier creations(www.japan-guide.com).
The huge zen garden after the central gate, is very lean, with the Pagoda and two lovely Sakura trees. Just near this garden, there is also a Gallery of Temple Treasures, where you can find an exhibit of temple art treasures, some Buddha statues and artworks.
For lunch we are heading to the centre of Nara, where we find a Paket store where there are hundreds of “Grab ‘n Go” packs of Japanese food, a heaven for our sushi monster son. So we enjoy to eat our lunch in the lovely atmosphere of another Temple Garden, instead of sitting in a restaurant.
Our next stop is Todai ji temple, a more crowded temple with tourists, brides, grooms and deers.
The big Buddha Hall is world’s largest wooden building. Along the approach to Todaiji stands the Nandaimon Gate, a large wooden gate watched over by two fierce looking statues. Representing the Nio Guardian Kings, the statues are designated national treasures together with the gate itself. Temple visitors will also encounter some deer from the adjacent Nara Park, begging for shika senbei, special crackers for deer that are sold for around 150 yen. (www.japan-guide.com)
And our final stop of Nara was Kasuga Taisha shrine, very famous with thousands of Lanterns, which are donated by worshipers.
Next: Kyoto train station to finish the day.