Bambi bites back
21.09.2011 20 °C
Nara is probably one of the loveliest places in Japan.
When there isn't a typhoon!
Nara was the first capitol of Japan. Now however, it is the capital city of Nara Prefecture; in the Kansai region of Japan. It is a pretty small city, but has no less than 8 world heritage sites to see. When we arrived in the city, there was a light rain, but we'd had that in Matsumoto earlier in the tour, so we paid very little attention to it. We did some sightseeing that day, with a lovely Japanese lady who gave herself the nickname Candy.
I'd love to see your mental picture of Candy, because that name conjured up in my mind something completely different to what she actually was...
Candy was a very shy, quiet, 50 something year old woman, who lives in and loves Nara very much. She took us by bus to the Nara Park, where I was totally shocked to see wild deer roaming around both in the fields and in the streets. Candy san told us that deer were considered to be 'messengers from God', and now they have the status of 'national treasures', so are therefore left to do as they please.
They seemed to be extremely sweet, magical creatures, like lots of little Bambi's roaming around. What actually they were, was the equivalent of cute looking pigeons--- Hungry, and everywhere! There was one in the public toilet eating the toilet paper, one waiting at the bus stop eating bus tickets or whatever fell from your pockets, they were standing outside shops and restaurants and following people who looked like they might be carrying something edible. I saw one girl feeding them with shika-sembei (special deer biscuits) and soon she got headbutted in her rear end by a hungry deer, and eventually got pushed to the ground as they all crowded around her in glee. It was probably a bit scary for her, but very, very funny to watch!
Anyway, we weaved our way through the deer, and got to the temple Todai-Ji to see 'The Daibutsu', the giant Buddah statue which was housed there, and wow-what an impressive sight. The statue is 16m high and consists of 437 tonnes of bronze, and 130kg of gold. It was really beautiful.
It is said that he who fits through a hole as small as the Big Buddah's nostril will reach enlightenment, and gain a safe pass to heaven. There was a hole of this exact size at the end of the hall, and when we saw it, we thought this is just a joke really, because then all children can get in and most adults cant.
At this point, I had already found the 'key to salvation' in Okaidan. This was during my stay in Nagano, at the Zenkō Ji temple, when I was assured that if I went into a pitch black corridor and walked for 5 minutes and tugged something big and hard with my right hand, i'd most certainly go to heaven...... So anyway, despite being pretty suspicious but highly amused by the instructions, I had done it, and was therefore given my 'get out of hell free card', and so the Buddah nostril thing wasn't entirely necessary.
But still, someone dared me to try and fit through the hole... and it was a double dare so I had to do it.
And I made it!! (with a little help)
After this we wandered through the park and dodged a few more deer, and we went on to a cute Kimono store in the city where Jane and I bought Kimonos, mine was a blue Kimono comlpete with a pink Obi, which I dress up in most nights now
Quite suddenly, during all of these pleasantries, we were told by Candy San that we should be getting indoors because a typhoon was on its way. Pretty crucial information to be dropped casually into a conversation, but we went back to our hotel and watched some movies, and got an early night ready for work in the morning.
In the morning we got a phone call, saying the show had been cancelled, and we were advised to stay indoors. The typhoon was moving north, and whereas we were only on the outskirts, it wasn't safe for us to go out or to drive, and most of the children couldn't get to the school. This was a real shame, but..safety first! None of us knew what to expect so we decided we should all get back into bed and watch films in our pyjamas all day until it calmed down.
The following day, the sun was back out and it had dried up considerably. Feeling a little disappointed that I had lost out on a whole day in this lovely city, I went out early morning and visited the Naramachi Koushi-no-le, an old traditional Japanese house, I then strolled through Nara-Klōen park and walked around the Kōfuku-Ji temple, before meeting the others, ready for a long drive to Okayama.
The typhoon had passed by us quite quickly, but it left a very big impression, and a very real fear inside me. It was strange and scary to watch the paved streets develop into small rivers and the wind was so strong, I couldn't imagine how it must be to be in the centre of it all. We heard that Matsumoto had been badly effected, which was really weird because we had only just left that place. It was a wake up moment actually, as only days before that, I had experienced my first earthquake, and only 6 months before that I had watched the news in horror to see a tsunami wave crashing into Fukushima.... I couldn't believe that these people have so much to deal with from mother nature; it must be terrifying to think that your house, your belongings, your loved ones...everything could go, you could loose it all, as you balance precariously atop numerous fault lines, alongside 108 active volcanoes... life throws enough pickles at us all, and the average person holds so many fears and anxieties, most of which are within his own power to prevent or cure. To be faced with this, plus a whole league of other possible catastrophes which you are completely powerless to defend yourself from... now that must be terrifying.