奈良と仏の同名 (Nara and Buddha’s namesake)

こんにちわ、みんなさん!(Hello, everyone!)

ひさしぶりですね!(It’s been a while, hasn’t it!)

Really though, I went like what, a whole two weeks without posting anything? Last time I chatted with y’all good folks I believe we left off on a lovely little conversation about my travels to the lovely city of Osaka, of which I saw but a teeny tiny fraction of in my one day there.

What I did not share with you, though, were my travels in Nara, which happened three days later!

We arrived there pretty late–we left Kobe at around 4:30 in the afternoon, so we got to Nara around 6:00 p.m. or so. And it was raining. Not too much, at least, but we ended up getting dinner first at some restaurant in the station to wait out the rain and to fuel up before heading out. I had オムライス, literally “omelette rice,” which is exactly what it sounds like. An omelette stuffed with rice and ketchup. It was good! And very Japanese…

After dinner, we (and by that I mostly mean I) had to stock up on おみやげ (omiyage, or souvenirs), mostly for myself, but also a few things for other people. For me, I made off with a しかまるくん (shikamaru-kun, like the adorable deer cartoon mascot of Nara) chopstick rest and a beautiful Nara Park keychain. I’ve decided that my token souvenir that I’m going to get from each place I visit is a keychain. They’re pretty, cheap, and are small and will easily fit into my bag when I go back to the states. Planning ahead, here.

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It’s a little sideways, but the sewer cover thing in Nara! The big cities have such pretty ones!
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Just hanging out with good ‘ol Shikamaru-kun here.

After that (I feel like this is turning into a narrative of “We did X. Then we did Y. And then we did Z. After Z, we did A. After A, we did B. After B….etc. Sorry guys. creative juices aren’t flowing yet. It’s early still.) we finally made our way over to Nara Park, which was kind of just a stopping point on the way to the shrine that we were visiting. But, me being like a kid in a candy store with all the deer just wandering around, my friends kindly indulged my inner child and let me play around with the deer for longer than we probably intended to. Friends, you know who you are, thank you for being so patient with me. When we first got there, there were a few behind a fence and I got all excited because they were coming over in our direction. Little did I know before, there were so many more deer in store in for me. SO. MANY. DEER!

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The beginning of the park!
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The first deer encounters of the day! Look at the wee little babies! LOOK AT THEM!!!!
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Just a casual warning in case the deer try to take over the world.
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Creepin’ on some girls wearing yukata, the summer kimono.
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“Whatchu lookin’ at?”

We kept going in the general direction of the shrine, which we still had to cut through the park to get to anyway. So maybe five minutes or so after the first deer encounters, we started seeing more deer. Lots more deer. Deer in every direction. Deer for days. Deer upon deer  upon deer. So distraction #1: I had to go say hi to the first group of deer. Now, I had done my research beforehand, friends. I did some clickity clackity keyboard action on my laptop before we left to figure out the best way to approach the deer, can we feed them, etc. My search results yielded a few interesting facts. First of which was that if you try to feed the deer, you can get them to bow to you. Yes, bow! How polite! And adorable! Adorably polite! The second result of my search was that there are deer crackers that you can buy to feed the deer with in the park.

So, I naturally had to test the waters with fact #1. I had to get these deer to bow to me. And get video evidence of it on my phone. I felt really bad because I didn’t actually have any snacks for the deer yet at that point, but I held out my hand as if I did just to see what would happen. And, sure enough, I got the deer to bow to me! Now, my internet search also told me that if you move the cracker from in front of you to behind you, they will bow a second time. Then, ideally, you want a third bow before you give them their treat, so if you move your hand and cracker back to the original starting point, they will bow a third time. I followed all of these steps and I got my first deer to bow to me three times! It was so magical! These deer were also super friendly and let me TOUCH them! I TOUCHED A DEER! Pictures below:

So basically I was in my little deer fantasy world heaven about 10 minutes into the park. We walked just a few minutes farther into the park and found the magical little kiosk that was selling the deer crackers for 150 yen for a ten pack. Best 150 yen of my life ever spent. I grabbed those deer snacks and started feeding away. Now, the deer around this part were a little more greedy and pushy, probably because of the abundance of food around, but I still got some awesome videos and pictures of me feeding the deer! One deer in particular kept following me around and nudging me with his horns, but he gave up once he realized I was out of snacks for him. I would post videos but my free account does not have video support 😦

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My extremely persistent friend.
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Real greedy little bugger. Not as polite as his friends.
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A buddy came to join us!
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Captain Greedy-pants bowing to me!
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Going for that third bow.
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Captain Greedy-pants is angry that I fed his friend instead of him.
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At last, Captain Greedy-pants gets his reward!
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They wouldn’t leave me alone after this.

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Finally, the most epic moment of my life happened in this little area. There were two deer laying down near this area of the park, a large male and a slightly smaller female. I noticed that several people nearby were taking photos posing with the large male, who really didn’t seem to care. Now, I wasn’t really in the mood to have my eyeball taken out by a rogue antler if the big male decided he’d had enough, so I figured that the hornless female was the safe bet for photo taking. I scooted up right next to her, she let me touch her, and then! Y’ALL. I TOOK A SELFIE WITH A DEER!!! Quite possibly the highlight of my life. I had to kneel in a pile of deer poop to get that photo, but dang it, it was worth it. Worth every second to get that one photo. After this, I was pretty much set for a while on my deer euphoria, so my friends were finally able to drag me away from my piece of deer paradise. I miss you, DEER friends! Haha get it? DEER friends? Dear friends? HA. I am so punny. Upon prompting by Jade through text message, I decided I’m naming the selfie deer DEERly Beloved. HA! I’m on fire with these deer puns, right? Right? Somebody tell me I’m right? Validate my humor?

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Me with my DEERly Beloved! Look at that nose! 😀

Now that I have quite literally rambled on for two pages of material about deer, I guess I can share the rest of the Nara trip with you, since that’s kind of the reason we went to begin with. Maybe I can fine tune my writing skills and write some dramatic short stories about the deer. I’m kind of lazy so I must divulge that I have not exactly been proofreading these blog posts and kind of just write and post the second that I’m done typing. But I bet I could make some awesome short stories about my deer friends…MOVING ON. Getting distracted over here.

SO, getting the deer out of my system for real this time, we traveled a few more minutes to a beautiful Buddhist Shinto shrine, 東大寺 (Toda-ji), which quite possibly has the largest Buddha statue in existence. There was some kind of festival or something going on over there, too, because there was all sorts of festival food and people dressed up in yukata (summer kimonos), and lanterns everywhere. It was so pretty! Even the walkway area leading up the shrine was beautiful. The shrine was so impressive that at first, as we were walking up to it, I thought that the gates were the actual shrine itself. They were huge! And inside the gates, there were two smaller, yet still enormous, statues on either side of the gate. Then, as we went through the gates, we got our first view of the shrine itself.

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See this? This ain’t the shine. Just the outer gate leading up to it. Still pretty impressive though, eh?
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Some extremely blurry lanterns outside the gate.
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A boat in a pond outside of the gate.
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Still not the shrine. Just another gate.
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Gates on gates on gates.
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A large statue of something inside of the second gate.
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Another large statue!
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There we go. There’s the real shrine! If you look closely through the middle window, you can see the Buddha’s face.
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Impressive, right?
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Just trying to get the best shot.
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Pictures do not do justice to how big this Buddha was.

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The  prayer area in front of the Buddha where you put your money in and pray.
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A different large statue inside of the shrine.
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More statues!

It was probably the most impressive thing I have ever seen in my life. And I feel like I’ve seen a lot at this point. More impressive than the old buildings in the French quarter and the pretty houses on St. Charles. More impressive than the buildings and churches and fancy things in Boston. More impressive than the chateaus in France. Yes, I mean it.  You can sort of glimpse the big Buddha from the little window thingy in the top of the shrine. It was seriously such an amazing sight, and I’m really glad that I got to see it.

It wasn’t until after we got inside that I was super duper impressed though (don’t you love my sohpisticated vocabulary?). As soon as we walked inside, the Buddha statue just TOWERED over everything. It had to be at least fifty feet tall. Maybe bigger, I’m not that good with estimating heights and distances. Could have been a hundred feet tall for all I know. I have pictures of people in front of it for scale, but again, hard to really tell in the pictures.

It was exciting for me to be able to see how impressive my cat’s namesake is. (I miss you, little buddy!) There were also several other small(er) but still large statues throughout the inside of the shrine, but none were as impressive as the Buddha.

And of course, there were more souvenir shops set up inside the shrine, so I made off with another deer keychain (it was too cute to pass up) and I got my shrine book stamped!

After we left, we *finally* made our way to the lantern festival, which was the entire reason we even went to Nara in the first place. It must have been pushing 8:30, 9:00 p.m. by that point. We walked around the trail to the festival, I tried to get some photos but it was too dark, and walked through the area. It was so lovely with the all the people and the lanterns! I also got my shrine book stamped there and made off with a Nara charm.

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My favorite deer crossing sign ever. DEER!

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We had to get up early for prison camp the next morning (did I say prison camp? I totally meant job training…job training…) Because it was in rural Hyogo prefecture, so we had to leave at that point for the sake of getting home at a semi reasonable hour. I missed the bus home, naturally, so I had to walk two miles home from the station in the dark (becoming an increasingly more frequent phenomenon these days) and I ended up just staying up because I needed to wake up in a few more hours anyway. I slept for about an hour, but needless to say I was pretty dead on the way to Yashiro for prison camp the next morning.

On a side note, prison camp wasn’t actually that bad. It was fun to have everyone in Hyogo prefecture back together again, meet some new faces, and make some new friends. The kitchen staff put on a lovely little concert for us filled with Elvis and Beatles songs.

I’ll think I’ll finally sign off here for the day, but rest assured that I will post more soon. Why don’t hardly any of y’all leave comments, though? What’s up with that? We should be having ourselves a lovely little conversation here, but I’m basically just talking at y’all. We should fix that.

Also leave me a comment if you want me to work on being more concise. I know I’ve kind of been in the habit of writing novels here even when I don’t do that much, so leave a comment below and tell me what you think of the length of the blog posts, or leave a comment about anything else that you want to, for that matter!

That’s it for real this time, so until next time!

またね!

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