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Nara it is, then それで、奈良に行きます

May 14, 2010

My original plan was to head out to Mie prefecture for a day trip to Itsukushima shrine, quite possibly the most important Shinto shrine in Japan.  It didn’t quite work out the way I had planned.  The weather didn’t cooperate and I didn’t feel like spending the time (over 1 1/2 hours by special rapid train, one-way) or the money (almost $100 CDN round-trip) for a so-so day.  More to the point, I slept in.

最初に三重県の厳島神社に行きたかったです。いきなかったです。天気がちょっと悪かったし特急で片道は一時間半以上かかるし切符も高いので。実は寝坊してしまいました。

So, what’s a guy to do so the day isn’t completely wasted for travel?  I hopped on the Kintetsu line at Nanba and took a nice trip out to Nara, that’s what.  Part of the reason for heading to Nara and not elsewhere was due to the fact that 2010 marks the 1300th anniversary of the founding of Nara.  That’s a lot of history.  That some of the wooden buildings still standing date back to that time is also amazing to me.

それで、なんばから近鉄線で奈良に行きました。面白い事は今年が奈良の1300年記念日です。すごいでしょう。

Going to see the sights of Nara isn’t the same as say, Kyoto.  The buildings of interest are much more spread out so you pretty much need to pick an area or spend more than one day.  I decided that a loop around the Nara park area would be good especially since I really wanted to hike up Wakakusa hill this time.  At almost 400 metres, it would give an entirely different view of Todai-ji and Nara city in general.  There are also a few other sights in that area that I’d been meaning to see but hadn’t yet.   In fact, this trip I avoided Todai-ji except for peeking in as I walked by at the end of the loop back to the station.  No problem, I’ve been there several times before and, as the number one tourist destination in Nara I really wasn’t interested in dealing with the crowds.

今回、東大寺や奈良公園の辺りへ行くを決めました。若草山も上りたかったです。高さはほとんど400メートルなのでそこからいい景色と思いました。他の所にも行きたかったです。今回、東大寺に避けられました。込んでいるすぎると思いました。

Kasuga taisha shrine dates back to the 8th century around the time of the founding of Nara as the ancient capitol of Japan.  This particular shrine is the primary one of the 3000 Kasuga taisha shrines throughout Japan.  There are 3000 stone and bronze lanterns within the shrine precincts corresponding to each of the sub-shrines.  Twice a year, in February and August, all the lanterns are lit in the evening in a special ceremony.  I’ve not yet seen this but it must be quite a sight.  As I was standing in line to pay the entry fee to the inner shrine buildings, an older Japanese woman was wondering to her husband why a foreigner would bother to pay to go in since I couldn’t possibly understand about Shinto.  I resisted the temptation to turn around and reply to her in Japanese that I understood just fine, thank-you very much.  Though, in retrospect, it might have been fun to see the expression on her face.

春日大社は8世紀に建てました。日本内に3000か春日神社があるけど奈良のは本社です。春日大社の中に石灯籠とブロンズ合金灯籠が3000本があります。3000神社があるので3000灯籠があります。二月と八月にせんぶ灯籠に火を付けています。まだ見た事ないけどとてもきれいだと思います。見たいです。列に並んで待っていた時後ろのおばさんが「なんで外国人は入りたいんですが。神道が分からないでしょうね」と言いました。僕は返事がしなかった。でも、日本語で返事をすればおばさんの顔がびっくりそうだったでしょうね。

The view of Todai-ji and all of Nara is pretty spectacular.  Can’t get away from the sacred deer of Nara though; a herd of them was right at the top of the hill.  Maybe they thought they were mountain goats?  Thankfully there was a wind at the top because that day decided to be one of the hot ones of the hot/cold cycle.  From the top of the hill, I made the journey down and around first to Sangatsu-do (Third month hall) and then to the larger Nigatsu-do (Second month hall).  I can’t say I understand the nomenclature but, there you go.  Nigatsu-do has a large verandah and looks out over Nara toward Todai-ji.  Its construction reminds me a little of Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto.  This is also where the water drawing festival takes place every March 12th evening.  The priests of the temple race around carrying a huge torch which then drops embers onto the gathered crowd below as a means of purification.  The actual water drawing ceremony takes place after midnight.  Like the lantern lighting of Kasuga-taisha, this is something worth seeing in Nara.

若草山の一番上の所から奈良市と東大寺の景色はすばらしいです。そこにも鹿がいます。山羊と思いましたか。奈良に行ったの日は暑かったですけど若草山に涼しい風がありました。やさしいおじさんもいました。冷たい飲み物を売れました。しばらくすると降りました。次に三月堂と二月堂に行きました。二月堂はちょっと清水寺みたいと思います。毎年、3月12日の夜にお水取り祭りがあります。僕はまだ見た事ないですが見たいです。面白くてきれいだと思います。

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