Sunday, July 19, 2015

Japan 2015 Day 11: We Travel to Nara

We awoke bright & early to the pitter-patter (thud thud) of little feet :) The rooms that our friends are staying in do not have curtained windows, so you can't blame the kids for being up with the sun. We had a delightful breakfast that Momo & Hiroko cooked together, of toast with 2 kinds of marmalade- I brought rhubarb marmy as omiage (a travel present) & Hiroko had made orange marmy from oranges from Momo's family farm- an omelette with cheese, cooked spinach, salad from dinner last night, watermelon, and lots of different juices & teas.

Yum! We had decided to take the train to Nara today, which is about 25 minutes by train. Nara not only has the Daibutsu, the largest bronze statue of the Buddha in the world (and the largest wooden building housing a bronze Buddha in the world), but also has 1200-ish tame deer that wander the city, looking for snacks & people to pet them. There are vendors who sell crackers to feed them. We thought the kids would get a kick out of them.

We took the bus from the stop near our house to Takeda Station, & then boarded a train for Nara.

The kids really enjoyed riding the train, watching the scenery & playing with a sticker book.

Nozomu-kun loves mimicking Aoi-chan, doing what she does & saying what she says. Aoi-chan loves taking him by the hand & playing mother :) Occasionally she takes off with him, necessitating parental intervention :)

In the Nara train station there was a cute photo-op area with the Nara mascot & 2 deer the kids could pretend to ride.

Elevators & up escalators were thin on the ground so we took the stairs out of the station.

Outside the station I saw my first Buddhist monk with a begging bowl, beside a statue of a Buddhist monk in a fountain.

There was also some beautiful music that I thought was a recording, but it turned out to be live South American style flute played by 2 guys in Andean-style hats. You can see them to the left of the fountain.

The weird thing was that the cd's they were selling said "Mohican" on them, which is the Japanese term for "Mohawk". I come from Mohawk country (Upstate New York) so it seemed as though they were mixing their metaphors...

We headed straight for lunch at an udon noodle place. I had cold noodles with broth, that had a sunny-side-up egg & tenpura on top. Oh yum!!

While we waited for lunch the kids drew on the feedback forms at the table :)

After lunch headed for the Toudai-ji, with the thought that we'd see deer on the way. We were right.

As you can see, the kids were totally into them :)

This being Sunday, there were a whole lot of people visiting Nara. I saw more Westerners there than I have in any other place we've visited so far this trip. We kept walking & following signs (& the crowd) and found ourselves on the street of shops that often leads to temples in Japan. Charlie snapped a deer visiting one of the shops:

It didn't seem to bother anyone, though. There were water buckets for the deer to drink from, & ladies kept washing down the sidewalks in front & scooping deer poop. Ah, the smell. That was one thing I didn't appreciate when the deer were nearby. Brendan didn't either.

Eventually we got to the Toudai-ji Buddhist temple. It really was huge. And somehow, the deer were excluded :)

We took some group photos. Then climbed more steps.

There was a small admission price for the Daibutsu hall, but it was worth it.

Amazingly huge, & amazingly old. The Daibutsu was completed in 751. It has been damaged a few times in fires & earthquakes, but he's still there...

Another beautiful & huge statue there.

Toward the back of the building there's a pillar with a hole in it, that's said to be the same size as the Daibutsu's nostril, & it's also said that if you can pass through the hole, you will absolutely attain enlightenment. There was a very short line to do this, including mostly kids, so Aoi-chan & Hiroshi got in line. There was one lady who made it on her second try, & we all cheered her on. Aoi-chan provoked many cries of "kawaii!" (cute!) as she crawled through with no trouble, & had be be coaxed out. Nozomu-kun had to go in too :)

On our way out of the Daibutsuden (building with the Daibutsu), there was a very old wooden statue of a boddhisattva (Buddhist saint) that, if you rubbed the part of the statue where you needed healing, you will be helped. So I rubbed his koshi (lower back area) to help mine. Then Charlie helped me down the stairs :)

Charlie got about 30 seconds of quality time with Nozomu-kun before he started yelling for his mom (the kid, not Charlie :).

And then we hiked back up the road & took the bus back to Nara Station. We found a San Mark sweets shop (Charlie's fave in all Japan) & had some refreshments, before taking the train back to Takeda Station & catching the bus home.

Hot, tired, & thirsty doesn't begin to cover it, even though we'd been drinking tea & water the whole trip. The day had been partly cloudy, very humid, & about 31 degrees celsius (88 fahrenheit). We all gulped down beverages, & Momo & Hiroshi went to the local conbini store for some dinner, & then Hiroko-san made a yummy main dish with veggies & leftover somen noodles, & we had lots of side dishes, & Momo made rice for Brendan :) While the ladies cooked, the kids taught Charlie the names of colours in Japanese using Uno cards.

After dinner, while the guys were cleaning up, I bore witness to the small child apocalypse, which took place when Aoi-chan & Nozomu-kun discovered the pile of futons in the corner of the main room. They screamed, jumped, slid, giggled, & created happy mayhem.

I laughed so hard...

Eventually, while Nozomu-kun was scrabbling to climb up, the top futon unfolded on top of him, burying him & Aoi-chan like they were in a sandwich.

From which they eventually escaped. It was a great way to get tired before bath & bed :)

Right before bath time, Charlie played some tunes on his recorder from a book of Japanese kids' songs we have.

And then it was bath & bed time, & time for us to plan tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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