Nara, Japan is a city where deer roam free throughout the streets, shrines, temples, and sidewalks. The concept was intriguing to me, so I took a day trip to this tiny town outside of Kyoto, Japan. What I didn’t consider was that the deer were much more than friendly, in fact, they were pushy and obnoxious. I also didn’t think about where all the deer poop would go….the answer is ALL OVER. This second fact became a problem with me in my designer tennis shoes. Ugh.
Driving up the road to Nara, I spotted the first few deer outside my car window. “How cute!” “Look at them just walking down the street!” After I got out and decided to mingle with the deer, I found myself saying “Ahhh, stay away!” and “Don’t bite me!” and most importantly, “Lookout for the poop!”
Our tour guide told us that the deer used to bow in true Japanese fashion to get their food treats. Now, the public just feeds the deer without waiting for the bow, so they have become more aggressive. We did manage to find one deer that still went in for the tradition.
After spending about an hour walking amongst the deer, we were rewarded by getting to see the giant gold Bodhisattva and world’s largest bronze Buddha, positioned inside what was in 1998, the largest wooden building in the world. It’s called Todai-Ji, originally erected in 743 by more than 2,600,000 people, who contributing rice, wood, metal, cloth, or labor; with 350,000 working directly on the statue’s construction. Due to fire, it needed to be reconstructed in 1709.
Recently, using x-rays, a human tooth, along with pearls, mirrors, swords, and jewels were discovered inside of the knee of the bronze Buddha; these are believed to be the relics of Emperor Shomu. The statue weighs approximately 550 tons.
We completed our journey with a stop along the road to inspect a tea plantation, and have lunch in a traditional Japanese restaurant. We found it quite challenging to sit cross legged on tatami mats for over an hour. What a day.