Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Recap: Nara and Saturday adventures

First off, I would like to announce that I AM DONE WITH GRADUATE SCHOOL APPLICATIONS.  WHOO.  Results won't start coming in until late February at the earliest, so I've still got a while to wait, but I can wait IN AN APPLICATION-FREE WORLD.  Man, it is beautiful.
Also, super intense thanks go to Fish (that's her nickname, for anyone who doesn't know her) and Nick for reading things at the last minute (and for generally being beautiful human beings) and Mary for reading things until she concussed herself.  She claims her concussion wasn't related to my writing, but WE ALL KNOW THE TRUTH.  Also, I have promised to make Fish a cake if I get into Harvard, and now that it is written on the internet, IT IS A BINDING PROMISE.

Anyway, it's time for our daily dose of TIME TRAVEL.

Let's go back to Friday, January 6, 2012, also known as the day we decided to go to Nara.  I'd been to Nara before (and you can read about it here and here), but it was really cool to see it again.

If you don't know about Nara, it was the capital of Japan from 710 to 794, at which point there were some Serious Problems (read: Buddhism was taking over everything) and they relocated the capital to Kyoto.
Needless to say, Nara is chock full of HISTORY and IMPORTANT CULTURAL ARTIFACTS and

...DEER.  The deer are believed to be messengers of the kami of Kasuga Taisha, which means that they are sacred, which means that you're not allowed to harm them.*

This means that the deer aren't scared of humans.  Humans, on the other hand, should be utterly terrified of deer.  Nara deer are VICIOUS and will EAT YOUR ARMS and STOMP ON BABIES.  (Okay, maybe the arm eating part is a bit of an exaggeration, but everything else is true.)

Our first stop of the day was Koufukuji, which has a gigantic pagoda.

Although we didn't go inside the actual temple (didn't want to pay the entrance fee), we did wander over to the octogonal side-building in the other direction.

After that we decided to head further into the park** toward Toudaiji.

On the way we stopped at this little shrine, which was dedicated to an ice kami.

...thus the giant block of ice which people could stick coins to.

There were a surprising number of anime ema there.

This one says, "May this year's summer be cool."

...I have no idea what this one is about.  Does anyone have any ideas?  NEET means No Employment, Education, Training, but I'm pretty sure that's not what they were talking about...



"May Kirin Beer become No 1."

Here's the box they had for depositing old ofuda and omamori.

So then we headed over to Toudaji.  But on the way we got enticed into a building that was built using an earthquake negating technology, so that it barely moves at all.  They had a simulator comparing the Kobe earthquake with and without the earthquake negating technology (Nick and Miranda tried it) and also really good free tea.  Also, the guy at the reception desk was kind of thrilled out of his mind that I could speak Japanese.  It was exciting.

And then we went to Toudaiji for real.

Toudaiji is a temple which has the distinction of being the largest wooden building in the world.***

Also, this deer was totally harassing that poor guy.

Here are the guardians at the gate.  Their abdominal muscles kind of make me cross-eyed.

Tiny shrine in the middle of a lake!

There's a really long approach to the temple; you have to go through two or three gates before you actually get there.

And this is it, the largest wooden building in the world!

Keep in mind that it used to be even bigger, but then it burned down, as wooden buildings are wont to do.

There is a HUGE Buddha statue inside.

To give you a sense of scale, this is a replica of one of the lotus pedals the Buddha is sitting on.

Did I mention that this is the largest wooden building in the world?

Of course, the Buddha is flanked by some bodhisattvas, who, while not quite as huge, are still pretty big.

And there are some temple guardians.

This is a replica of the ORIGINAL Toudaiji (before it burned down).  Somewhat difficult to tell the size from this angle, but it was BIG.

Here's another guardian.

This is a pillar with a hole in it called "the Buddha's nostril."  The hole is supposed to be as large as the nostril of the large Buddha statue, and being able to crawl through it is supposed to give you really good luck.

I didn't get to do it last time I visited, so Nick and Miranda URGED (and by that I mean FORCED) me to do it this time.

It should be noted that just about everyone else going through was under the age of 10.

[insert some excessively awkward pictures of me trying to fit my hips through a tiny hole]

I made it, though!

Then Nick decided to try it, because if I can do it, he can too, right????

[insert some pictures that I will be keeping solely for blackmail purposes]

He didn't fit.

Oh, hey, it's Kannon!

This is a (super duper) famous statue outside the temple.  Supposedly rubbing it will cure you of ailments?

The grounds were kind of dead (what with it being winter and all).

So after that we headed toward a Hachiman shrine in the park, but first we made a detour to some of Toudaiji's subordinate temples.


So as it turns out, the deer in Nara will bow to you if you bow to them.

...this deer got bored with bowing at Miranda when she didn't feed her.


Here's one of Toudaiji's subordinate temples.

This was a spinning stone wheel thing that supposedly gives you good luck.

Miranda had way too much fun with it.


Pretty cool hand-washing station.

This edition of views from high places continues!

D'aww, the deer are visiting the tiny shrine!

Have I mentioned that Miranda took great satisfaction from ringing ALL THE BELLS?

Also, we were joking that I should rename my blog "Miranda Doing Things."

Tiny shrine!

Bells are FUN.  I mean, serious work.  Definitely serious work.  NOT FUN.

This was at the Hachiman shrine.  If you have really good eyes, you'll notice that the lantern coverings have two pigeons forming the character 八.  That's because Hachiman's messenger/familiar is a pigeon, and 八 is the first character in 八幡 (Hachiman).


Sometimes deer want to buy things from stores too.

Suddenly, French?


Here's a cool little stream we crossed over on our way to Kasuga Taisha, the main shrine in the area.

So this is a tree...growing inside a tree.  It is known as "the hugging tree" or something like that?  I forgot to take a picture of the sign, so I don't remember the actual name.  I am a failure, I know.

Sometimes it is nice to be short.  You don't have to worry about banging your head on beams.

So here's Kasuga Taisha!  It was a lot less dead when I was last there.

Here's their omamori and ofuda return box.

...and that's all my pictures.  The inside bit of the shrine was sort of semi-under construction, so we didn't get to go in.  Bummer.


Stone lanterns!  Kasuga Taisha (and the approach to it) has a lot of these.

So then we went to a little shrine in the area

where we found SO MANY love ema.


I don't know about you, but I definitely want to exist in love x 100.

("May we be able to exist forever with good relations and in love x 100.")


No, seriously, so many.

This was a side shrine devoted to problems with breasts, uteruses (uteri?)****, and ovaries.  Most of the ema were written by women who had breast or ovarian cancer.

And, yes, the ema have breasts on them.

Anyway, after that we wandered around in the woods a bit and then headed back to Kyoto.

The next day!

We decided to head over to Fushimi Inari in the morning.  I didn't take many pictures, but you can check out my pictures from last time or, better yet, you can check out Mary's post from last time.

I did manage to put my business card up this time!

(A gold star to anyone who can identify which one is mine.)

I love the view from Fushimi Inari, and YOU CAN'T STOP ME FROM LOVING IT.

So then we were supposed to meet up with Steven and Michele,***** so we headed over to Yasaka Shrine.

Yasaka is a BIG shrine.

I last visited about 2 1/2 years ago, so it was really cool to see it again now that I have some idea what's going on.

It was also CROWDED, 'cause it was the first weekend of the New Year.

So we met up with Steven and Michele and wound up wandering around the Higashiyama district for a while, until we happened upon this:

Oooh, looks like it might be a temple!

Definitely looks like a temple.

So we wandered in...only to discover that it was a mausoleum.  Heh.  Oops.

After that we grabbed dinner at a pretty good Indian restaurant in Shijo, which had HUGE naan.  So tasty.
It was also pretty cool hanging out with other Fulbrighters. I'm SO EXCITED for our mid-year conference in March.  SO EXCITED.

And then, since Team Dana was pretty pooped, we headed back toward the hostel to crash.

And thus ended the 7th.

And now I am only 10 days behind in blogs.  WHOO.

*Although this one time about two years ago this ramen place suddenly started selling venison ramen...and it turned out that the owner and his wife were hunting the Nara deer.  That didn't go over so well.

**Most of the major attractions in Nara are located in a single park.  It makes sight-seeing very convenient.

***Also, whenever anyone says "Toudaiji" I immediately think of Dai Mahou Touge.  Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

****Dictionary says either is fine, but spell check only accepts uteri.

*****If you want to see Steven's side of events, he has a blog post about it over here!  Also, I generally recommend reading his blog.  He's definitely a better writer than me.

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