Nara’s a really good place to see some old Japanese buildings. Although Kyoto seems to be far more popular with tourists, I much prefer Nara myself. There are several temples and shrines within walking distance of the station, and some of them are really good. It’s also less crowded than Kyoto.

I should point out that I’m not really a great connoisseur of temples and all that. To be honest, most of them are fairly unexceptional and rather similar. It’s also rarely worth paying the entrance fee, because there’s little inside to see. However, in Nara, there are some places that do stand out.

Todaiji is, or at least claims to be, the world’s largest wooden building (not to be confused with the world’s longest building, which is in Kyoto). And it is big.

Todaiji is the Buddha inside, although you can’t get much idea of scale from the picture.

Todaiji Buddha

Unfortunately, the decorators didn’t study very hard in biology class, judging by this eight legged butterfly.

Eight legged butterfly

There are a couple of these large statues of really angry looking guys, too. I’m not entirely sure where they fit into the whole scheme of things, which just shows my ignorance.

Angry statue

One thing I did learn is that eternal happiness is a lot cheaper than I had assumed:

Would you donate tiles for temple restoration? 1,000 yen for one tile. Please write the date, your name, address, country and wish on the tile to be secured forever at Todaiji-Temple. This will bring eternal happiness. Thank you.

However, having already shelled out 500 yen to get in, I declined their offer. I am, however, assured enlightenment, because I managed to squeeze through a small hole at the base of one of the columns. I got a round of applause for that!

Near the entrance, there’s a stall selling, as well as the usual tat, the following:

  • Charm for happy life
  • Charm for good luck
  • Charm to cure disease
  • Charm for safe journey

To me, that sounds like an inventory list from a role playing game, maybe Nethack or Rogue or something like that. What else? Potion of increase level? Ring of resist heat? No, but they do have:

  • Charm for passing examination

It’s not clear whether it’s good for several exams or just one, but at 400 yen it’s not a bad deal. I wish I’d known before; it certainly sounds easier than studying!

Maybe this one will help those morons who drive around blathering on their mobile phones:

  • Charm to protect against traffic accidents

Nara is also famous for deer. There are lots of them, and plenty of deer droppings, too. However, they don’t have a correspondingly large range of venison dishes on offer. None, in fact. I was really disappointed to find that the “shika senbei” (deer crackers) advertised everywhere were actually crackers for feeding to deer.

It’s interesting to see that deer can go bald, too.

Bald deer