Todaiji in Nara Park, Nara, Japan, is the worlds largest wooden building and houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue called a daibutsu (大仏 = big Buddha). This was my second visit, but the famous temple was just as astounding as I remembered it. As you can see in the pictures it was pretty crowded, which is typical for this famous temple.
The original big Buddha and it’s hall were finished in 751 thanks to the work of more than 2,600,000 people. Unfortunately due to fire the temple had to be rebuilt twice. The current structure was completed in 1709 and although huge, is actually about 30% smaller than the previous building. To catch a glimpse of the size of the big Buddha, check out my photos of Todaiji at night.
Often the details in grand places like Todaiji Temple are overlooked. However, it was hard not to notice the simple but beautiful candles adorning the inside of the temple. Numerous ornate candle holders full of delicate white candles shed their light along the temple walls. Also, just outside the entrance of the temple are several large incense burners. Buddhist practitioners waft the smoke from the incense over their heads to gain wisdom.
Off to the left, just before entering the main gate at the great wooden Todaiji temple in Japan, there is a path that leads to an enchanting memorial area (pictured above) that feels strikingly remote and peaceful given its immediate proximity to the throngs of tourists bustling for a glimpse of the temple.
Another serene spot near Todaiji is the Isuien Garden. Located off of Todaiji’s south gate, it is the only walking garden in Nara and is a great way to relax, despite the crowds.
I couldn’t decide which version of coloration I liked best of the memorial so I posted all three. Let me know what you think.
Quite approachable and easily photographed, the deer in Nara were everywhere. There are around 1,200 Japanese spotted deer who roam freely through Nara Park. The reason for their prevalence in the park is that they were once considered sacred because of ancient folklore that told of a Shinto deity riding down to earth on a white deer. The deer were so revered that up until 1637, death was the punishment for killing one of these deer. After World War II though the deer were demoted from the status of “sacred” to the lowly position of “National Treasures”.
For animal lovers, the deer are an extra treat at Nara Park because they are all quite tame and tourists are encouraged to interact with them. There are even vendors who sell crackers or senbei that you can feed to the deer. Be careful not to wave your crackers around because the older male deer can be fairly aggressive and I watched quite a few eager tourists turn tail and abandon their crackers when they realized they were being surrounded by hungry pushy deer. They’ll sometimes sample your purse or clothing just to make sure it isn’t edible too so guard yourself!
If you’ve had some deer adventures in Nara Park or elsewhere, write and comment about it! I’d love to hear your stories.
Few things are simpler but more quaintly enchanting that the stone lanterns padding the walking path leading up to world reknown UNESCO World Heritage Site Kasuga Shrine in Nara Park. In fact, one of the reasons why Kasuga Shrine is famous is because it has some of the oldest bronze and stone lanterns, called Toro, in all of Japan. Toro were originally created as religious elements for temples and shrines, but today they are used in Japanese gardens more for their beauty.
I spent a good amount of time photographing these lanterns in hopes of doing justice to their age and elegance. One of the first things that grabbed my eye was the visual line the lanterns created along the path and I wanted to maintain that line in some of my pictures. As for straight on shots, I was drawn to the natural symmetry of the lanterns. I also found their individualistic character to be very charming and photo worthy.
If you’ve also tried your hand at photographing these beautiful lanterns, I’d love to see your pictures and hear your photo insights. Leave a comment and a link below!
Although the main attractions in Nara Park are the famous temples Todaiji and Kofukuji or the Kasuga Shrine, there is a lot to see and experience just walking around the roughly 600 ha park.
For example, the delightfully vintage looking tea house shown above is just one of many quaint structures I passed while exploring some of the less walked paths in Nara Park. The paths seem endless and along the way you’ll encounter many beautiful gardens and ponds and streams. No matter what time of year you go, the park will be bustling with visitors, both locals and tourists. I got a kick out of this family who brought their pet cat along for their outing. Given Japan’s love of cute things though, I’m not too surprised that they felt they couldn’t leave their lovable kitty behind.
After a day of walking around Nara Park, you’re sure to be hungry. Luckily the walk from the park to the JR Nara Station has many choices for a delicious meal. I chose to stop at a restaurant specializing in Japanese curry and ordered Japanese style fried pork cutlets on curry and rice (called katsu curry). It’s a dish I could eat everyday for a month and still love it afterward.
A few of the thousands of lit candles in Nara Park.
Here are my photos of Todaiji during the To-Kae Lantern Festival. The upper doors of the main facade are open so you can see the Buddha’s face from outside. This is rare and only happens twice a year.
This past weekend I visited Osaka and Nara. The highlight of the trip was the To-Kae Festival held in Nara Park. With roughly 502 hectares, Nara Park encompasses three world heritage sites (Todaiji, Kofuku-ji and Kasuga Shrine), the Nara National Museum, and the Silk Road Exchange Hall. It is also home to over one thousand deer that are considered National Treasures. The To-kae Festival is a ten-day event in the middle of August during which Nara Park is enchantingly lit up at night with thousands of candles. There is no entrance fee to the park or the temples during the event.