What do you do when you only have a few days left in Japan but have only set as side a small amount of cash to gifts…you go to Nara! It’s a tourist friendly town, and is only a short train ride away from Tenri. I liked Nara a lot, and could have spent more time there purely to explore the city, and of course check out more of the smaller temples and shrines that are sprinkled around the city. With a population of less than 400,000, Nara is also a “slower” city in comparison to Tokyo or Kyoto which matches my personality quite well.
After picking up a small bag of goodies for the parents and friends back home, Joe and I found our way back to Tenri (after a bit of translation woes.) We practice packed and took the evening to relax and reflect on the trip. The following day would be our last full day in Tenri and the haunting realisation that our trip was coming to an end hit full force.
If you ever get a chance to deviate from the bigger cities I would highly recommend going to Nara even as a day trip. You won’t regret it.
On the 4th day of our trip we decided that Tenri had showed us what it had to offer and it was time to venture out into the surrounding cities. Nara, the closest larger city in the prefecture is quite a bustling place. It is definitely a tourist’s paradise and the city knows it.
The trip into the Todai-ji was kind of surreal for me. I’ve never been to a Buddhist temple before and the sheer enormity of the Buddha Vairocana was breathtaking. At first I was in awe of the Buddha itself, but then came a wave of energy that shook me to the bone. How many people have prayed in this place? How long has this building been here? What was it like to sit here hundreds of years ago when there weren’t 20 souvenir booths lined up outside? As I moved through the semi-circle pathway around the Buddha I started feeling as though I was passing through a very sacred place without truly understanding it.
Hundreds of thousands if not millions of people walk through this temple every year and I would believe that a good percentage of them have no idea what this place means to those of the Buddhist religion. I certainly have no knowledge about their traditions and practices yet I was allowed to walk through a significant temple for the right price of 500 yen. I guess I was conflicted with my being able to just waltz into this temple for a price and no guidance as to what this place really means.
Either way it is undeniable that the Todai-ji is truly a remarkable feat. It is an architectural marvel, and having burnt down twice the temple is actually 30% smaller than its original. Overall Nara will definitely be one of the major highlights.