Nara Japan; Sacred Deer, Todai-ji Temple and Lunch in a Bus Station

by wired2theworld on August 3, 2011

Post image for Nara Japan; Sacred Deer, Todai-ji Temple and Lunch in a Bus Station

Ancient temples? Check. World’s largest bronze Buddha? Check. Sacred deer roaming the streets who will eat our of your hand? Che….whoa…what?

Oh yes, Nara Japan has it all, including a few thousand tame “sacred” deer who are free to roam the streets, wander into shops and restaurants and lounge about the local parks. These deer are considered “messengers of the gods” and are all over the 1300 acre Nara Park where most of the temples and National Museum are located.

We took the shuttle bus from the hotel to the Kyoto train station and then used our Japan Rail passes to take the train to Nara. We got on the first train available and this one looked much like a city subway train. Indeed, it was the “slow” train, stopping at every station, making it a 64 minute trip vs. the faster train which takes 48 minutes.

Grey Kimono

Love the puppy on the obi

At the Nara train station, we visited the Tourist information desk and got a map and directions on where to go from there. It’s incredibly easy;  just walk out the station, across the parking lot and up the main street on the left. About 6 blocks later we reached the first of many temples.

Small cemetary near Kofuku-ji Temple

Small cemetery near Kofuku-ji Temple Temple in Nara near 3 story pagoda.

Temple Incense

Temple Incense

At this point we started running into some of the sacred deer. They like to hang out next to the carts where people sell deer crackers (go figure) but really, they are just about everywhere in the park areas.

Nara Deer

"This is my 'sexy' look"

Nara Deer

Sacred Deer

Nara Deer
See the sign; be careful they don’t “butt” you!

 Our next stop was Todaiji Temple, home to the largest bronze buddha in the world and the temple building itself is considered to be one of the largest wooden structures in the world.

Todaiji Temple Sign

Todaiji Temple Sign

Todaiji Temple Incense

Todaiji Temple Incense

Todaiji Temple

Todaiji Temple; the largest wooden structure in the world.

Nara Great Buddha

The largest bronze buddha in the world; he's almost 50 ft tall!

Great Buddha Hand
Buddha’s hand; if his ear is 8 ft long then then hand must be about 10 ft.

 Before we left Nara, I had to give feeding the deer a try. I bought some deer crackers and the woman told me to be careful and to put up my hands, palms out, when I ran out of food. The deer would understand the signal. Very quickly I was surrounded; they weren’t really agressive, just insistent. One even tried to get into my jacket pocket and into my bag. But as soon as I put my hands up they waked away, off to find someone else to feed them.

Nara Deer
Feeding the deer
Nara Deer
Deer sign language for “I’m out of food!” Yes, they DO understand.

There is a lot to see here and we barely scratched the surface. Most people visit Nara as a day trip, but it could easily be an overnight stop because there’s so much here. I would have loved to have time to check out the National Museum and there’s the Nara City Museum of Western Photography, which, had I known it was there, I would have made time to visit.

After about three hours we were tired from walking and hungry. Thereweren’t a lot of options for an affordable lunch in the area around where we were so we took the shuttle bus which runs in a circular route (200 yen each) back to the bus station across the street from the train station. We knew we wanted to visit the temple at Inari with the thousand red gates on our way back to Kyoto, so we decided to stop right there and have lunch. Down a dark hallway on the outside of the station we found a teeny-tiny family run place with just two tables and a counter. We sat at a table and enjoyed an inexpensive meal of tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) and beer. The set meals were about 650 yen each.

When it was time to get back on the train, we had to make sure we had the right one which would make a stop at Inari. Unfortunately, we missed the fast train by a minute and our option was to get on a slow train (72 minutes, ouch), or wait half an hour for the faster one which would get us there at about the same time.

We opted for the slow train, taking out the MiFi and using the time on our phones to catch up with life back home.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tris Beezley August 3, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I LOVE the sign, they can’t be more clear than that. And the deer are adorable. Is one eating your coat? Wish we could have been with you!
Tris Beezley recently posted..Cambodia

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2 wired2theworld August 3, 2011 at 10:14 pm

No, but I think he was hoping there was something in my pocket for him to eat! I wish you could have been with us too. You would have loved it!

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3 Kent @ No Vacation Required August 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm

The “deer sign language” is a crack up. That buddha – and the structure is amazing. Jeez, and I thought we saw a big one in Hong Kong.
Kent @ No Vacation Required recently posted..From Glacier NP to Glacier Bay NP

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4 wired2theworld August 3, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Kent, I had no idea it was one of the biggest buddhas until we got there. We’ve seen some big ones but this guy was huge! :-)

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5 Myra August 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm

That sign warning of a deer butting is hysterical. Is there a statistic on how many people they butt a year?
Myra recently posted..Peaceful Children in Parisian Cathedrals

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6 wired2theworld August 3, 2011 at 10:16 pm

No idea, but it really was funny wasn’t it?

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7 Jacqueline August 3, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Check the link to Princess Mononoke, have you seen it? Amazing film and the deer theme is there, I’d forgotten about the deer in Nara until this post. Thanks for another great post!

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8 wired2theworld August 3, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Yes, I’m really glad we made the trip. I loved the deer (the babies were so sweet!) and would love to go back to see more of the city. I would at minimum overnight there next time. Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

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9 marivic August 4, 2011 at 10:47 am

Beautiful photos–and the one of you “surrendering” to the deer is hilarious. Thanks for reminding me how amazingly beautiful Japan is.
marivic recently posted..May Gibb’s Home, Nutcote

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10 Marcy August 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Love the sign…too funny! Your pictures are terrific. You always find such interesting places to eat! :-)

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11 Marlene August 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Haha! Sign is priceless. And they really go away when you rise your hands like that ?

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