We decided to visit Nara. According to wikipedia (what did people do before wikipedia?) Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784 and has 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. That means those sites are of "outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity." We saw three of them so we will have to go back. The three we saw were in Nara Koen (park). The other big draw for Nara Koen is the deer. Wikipedia says it best:
According to the legendary history of Kasuga Shrine, a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. Since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country.
Tame deer roam through the town, especially in Nara Park. Snack vendors sell "shika sembei" (deer biscuits) to visitors so they can enjoy feeding the deer. Some of the deer have learned to bow in response to tourists' bows. They nudge, jostle, and even bite for food.
Do they ever. One deer was totally chewing on my t-shirt, Craig got butted by a few and, when we got ice cream, one doe kept bowing to me so I shared my cone. We both bought some biscuits and the deer just swarm you. Once the biscuits are all gone the deer just move on to the next sucker. When I got mine this rather aggressive male with pretty big antlers was making it tough for me to feed anyone but him. The old woman who sold me the biscuits grabbed her deer smacking stick and gave him a good knock on his antlers to let him know he needed to back down. The deer know that you do not mess with old Japanese women wielding sticks.
We went to the Kasuga-taisha Shrine which was established in 768 and is famous for its lanterns, both brass and stone.
Did I mention the lanterns. There were hundreds of them leading up to and inside the shrine.
Todai-ji is a Buddhist Temple and the world's largest wooden building. The world's largest wooden building houses the world's largest brass Buddha. The temple was also established in the late 700's.
This is just the gate to the building.
This is the building. This one was actually built in 1709, the previous one was destroyed by fire, and is 30% smaller than the original.
The Buddha is 50ft tall and weighs 500 tons.
This guy was also on display. Usually statues like this are outside the temple protecting it, hence dude is standing on a defeated monster, but he got to be inside.
This is Pindola. He was a master of occult powers. His face is very expressive. Legend says that if you touch a part of his body and then the corresponding spot on your own then it will heal.
Here we are, respectfully, using the giant temple to give ourselves horns.