Japan! Exploring Nara

So I left off when we went to go find a bar playing World Cup at 2:30a. We got super duper lost, but eventually made it to the place we saw earlier, Pop Masters. When we went in, we were greeted by super friendly bartenders. Dave got them to put the game on, and we hung out there all night.

At 9a we boarded a bus to Nara, which was the first capital of Japan. It later moved to Kyoto. Nara is known for having tons of tamed deer, because the deer there are thought to be the descendants of the Great White Deer spirit. For a while, it was illegal to kill a deer, and if you were found with a dead one, the authorities would have you executed. Eventually, someone left a deer on the doorstep of parliment, and that law was revoked.

The deer are SO absolutely adorable. They’re all over the place, and very friendly. There were tons of baby deer running around, though they were a bit more skittish. Some of the deer had huge sets of antlers, which were fuzzy when you touched them. For $1.50 they sell packs of deer biscuits that are made of rice. It’s like crack for deer. They’ll follow you and try to eat through your purse to get to the biscuits.

We walked through Nara Park, admiring the hundreds of stone lanterns that were shrines to shinto spirits. Our guide explained that Buddhism is so easily accepted in Japan because the first main religion, Shinto, has about 4 billion dieties, and adding one more to the list was no big deal.

The first shrine we came across was one dedicated to love and it’s where single people go for ceremonies, charms, and to pray. It looks very Valentine’s day.

We saw lots of great architecture. One interesting thing about Nara was that since it’s older than the other cities, it had chinese architecture, inspired by the Tang Dynasty. When the Buddhists gained power and moved the government to Kyoto, that’s where the Japanese style of architecture was developed.

We took a break and had a super traditional Japanese lunch. There was somen, miso soup, sekihan rice (rice with red beans), and an assortment of fairly intensely flavored dishes in a bento box. There was some tofu that was super inflated with some broth, tempura fishcakes, pickled stuff, a smoked scallop, and some other stuff. Most of the people in our group were not fans of the bento, but really enjoyed the somen and miso soup.

After lunch, Dave and I went into a gift shop cuz Dave wanted to show me a cute kitten he saw playing in the back. The shopkeeper talked to us a little, and he ended up giving us a giant bag of broken deer biscuits. I went out and soon had four deer surrounding me (three males, one female). The biggest one kept hogging all the food, and actually bodychecked another deer to push it away from my hand. This was the most fun thing I’ve done on the trip so far. Deer have velvety lips, and don’t seem to bite. I did end up with deer slobber all over my hand though (gross!)

We walked to another temple, and there was a loud thunderclap. Instantly, about fifty Japanese people ran towards an alcove. It was sunny. A minute later, the hardest rain I’ve ever been in happened. We all ran for cover, too. I wish I had video of that.

I forgot to pack for rain. Jack gave me his umbrella so I could protect my camera (and Matthew’s camera, and 4 iphones). By the time we all walked to Tōdai-ji to see the biggest bronze Buddha in the world, water was sloshing in my shoes, and I was drenched up to my knees. But it was all worth it, because the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) was mindblowingly gigantic. He is housed in the biggest wooden building in the world. It is 2/3 smaller than the one one it had, which had caught on fire and was rebuilt in 1709. The reason it was made smaller was because the samurai had chopped down too many trees for their forts and castles when they took over, so there wasn’t enough wood.

We got back to the hotel and immediately went out to a pharmacy that Matthew had seen. Jack had gotten attacked by some vampiric bloodsucking insect, which he pulled off his skin and splattered onto a wall. I got 6 mosquito bites yesterday at Osaka Castle, and had a severe allergic reaction. The same thing happened to me 6months ago in Hawaii, so I knew what it was, but it was still really really bad. The pharmacist didn’t speak english, but he handed me a box with a bunch of smiling insects on it.

When we got back, we went to one of the resteraunts in the hotel with Dave’s grandpa. Almost everyone got sushi, which was arranged beautifully. The fish was so fresh that the octopus wasn’t chewy and didn’t have that octopus taste I hate. And everyone (except Dave) was scared of their salmon roe sushi (big poofy orange fish eggs), and gave it all to me 🙂 Win!

After a five hour nap, Dave, Matthew, and I went back out to Pop Masters to watch another World Cup match. This time, for the most part, we were the only customers there. They were prepared for us; they had the game on and had english menus for us. I got a really delicious lychee orange drink. Then, I drew some pictures and was able to order a couple redbull vodas off-menu. Yay! Spain won, and we came back. I’ve been awake since then, because this is the only time of day I have decently fast internet.

To see all of my Nara pictures, click here.