japanJoel & Robin Japan 2001

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Day 7: Nara

We took the train a half-hour to Nara, the first permanent capital of Japan, and somewhat less crowded and more dramatic than better-known Kyoto. Nara is renowned for its deer, which roam in the parks and between the ancient temples. They're extremely tame, and vendors sell snacks to feed them.

Tame deer in the park at Nara

We went to the Great Buddha, which is as large as the Great Buddha of Kamakura but doesn't photograph nearly as well. That's largely because it's enclosed in the world's largest wooden building. It's the world's largest bronze Buddha and was completed in 752. You can make out the hundreds of smaller buddhas in the background.

The great buddha of Nara The great buddha of Nara from the side

Afterwards, Robin went back to Kyoto with the group, and saw a Japanese dance performance by the apprentice geishas. I stayed in Nara, and visited Isui-en garden. This is only a century or so old (young for famous Japanese gardens), but it has an incredible dramatic effect. You round the corner of a house from the front garden, and all of a sudden this vista spreads out in front of you, with the pond in the foreground and in the distance the mountains and the giant gate leading to the Great Buddha.

View of the rear garden and vista at Isui-en garden in Nara.

I also visited a hip department store (where I bought a t-shirt with nonsensical English), a Japanese version of Kmart (where I picked up an extra smart card for my digital camera), and an arcade (where they had the most inventive videogames). For dinner, I had shabu-shabu - a dish where you cook vegetables and thinly sliced beef in the boiling water in front of you. I ate it all up, then remembered I wanted to take a picture.

Interior of a shabu-shabu restaurant.

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2001 Joel Abrams. All rights to images reserved.