I’m terribly sorry for the pun, but I really couldn’t resist. Hey, it could have been worse — my alternate title choice was something along the lines of “I’m so fawned of Nara.” (Get it?!)
A few months ago (this blog post is waaay overdue), Edu and I had a chance to revisit the Kansai area, this time with a couple friends who were visiting from the US. We planned a weekend stay in Osaka, but as Nara was closeby (the train ride from Osaka to Nara was less than an hour), we couldn’t resist venturing a day trip to the historic city.
Nara was the capital of Japan during the 8th century, and as a testament to this, the city is home to several historic sites. However, a few of the sites were actually closed for the holidays (note: New Year’s is really not the best time to go sightseeing in Japan).
Fortunately, we had a chance to visit Tōdai-ji (Eastern Great Temple). Considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the temple was constructed in the early 8th century and houses an impressive bronze daibutsu, or large statue of buddha. I suppose there is such a thing as “temple fatigue.” I certainly experienced it after two days of temple-hopping in Kyoto the previous month. However, even after having seen dozens of Japanese temples, I was still left breathtaken by the sight of the magnificent Tōdai-ji.
However, I’d be lying if I said that it was purely Nara’s cultural and historical significance that brought us there. You see, Nara is also famous for the free-roaming local deer (shika, in Japanese) that you encounter everywhere.
In the park..
On the street…
I was initially quite surprised to see them roaming freely around the temple grounds as well. This makes sense: they were once considered to be messengers of the gods. Nowadays, however, they are considered to be merely national treasures, rather than straight-up divine.
Regardless of their status, one truth remains: words cannot express how cute these guys are.
As is true for many creatures (including some humans, I suppose), the best way to a shika’s heart is through its stomach, and so for ￥150, you can pick up some shika-senbei from various vendors throughout the area and make some new friends.
They are so friendly! They even bow to you! They’re not too fond of being petted, though.