Monday, January 24, 2011

Christmas Break 3: Nara

Friday, December 24th

On the day of Christmas Even we went to Nara. As we exited the station I saw a Mr. Donut across the street. I had been talking about Mr. Donut earlier so I got really excited and had to go! :)
When we arrived at Mr. Donut I got even more excited because of the Rilakkuma banner outside. They had Rilakkuma bags too! :)

Haha, I'm holding the banner backwards.

"Thanks you beautiful people."

After stopping at both Mr. Donut and McDonald's, we arrived at Nara Park.

Aren't the deer adorable? I just love how they roam around freely and many of them even let you pet them.

Haha... though they can be scary too!

We walked around for a while and then bought some senbei (crackers) to feed the deer. Several deer were waiting around the senbei stand before we even bought them.

Some of the deer were a bit aggressive, lol. That sign was right!

Then we went to Kasuga Taisha. It's a shrine with over a thousand stone lanterns leading up to it. I think it would be neat to be there when they're all lit up, but it only happens a couple of times a year.

The deer among the lanterns were sooooooooooooo adorable! :)

Next we went to Todaiji, which is the temple with Daibutsu (a giant Buddha statue). The building itself is pretty massive too!

See? It's big!

You can't see the scale very well in this picture, but that buddha is about 49 feet tall!

In Todaiji, there is a pole with a hole in it. The hole is about the same size as one of Daibutsu's nostrils. The legend is that if you can fit through, you will be enlightened in your next life. I wasn't sure what the significance was at the time. I just wanted to see if I could fit through!
It was a little bit difficult at first, but once I figured out that I needed to go through sorta diagonally so that my shoulders would fit, I had no trouble and didn't need to be pulled out. It's really slick.

Yay! I can fit through Buddha's nostril!

He fit too!

Before we left the temple, I looked at souvenirs a bit. It was a little chilly outside and I was wanting a hat, so I couldn't pass up a pink deer hat! I had kind of wanted it when I was there with Lauren during the summer but hadn't gotten it.

After Todaiji we briefly stopped at Nigatsu-do, which is a temple that has a view sorta overlooking Nara.

We also visited a garden called Isuien. It was very pretty! :)  For the majority of the time, we were the only two people there so it was very nice!

I was very surprised to see sakura blooming! I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be blooming in the winter or if it was just confused. But then at another place, I saw the same tree with a tag and I recognized the kanji for "winter" so I assume that it is supposed to flower in the winter. Either way, it's really cool! :)

There's another garden next to Isuien, called Yoshikien. It's not as impressive as Isuien, but it's free for foreigners so it's still worth it.

On the way back to the train station, we tried to find a good place to eat. We didn't have any luck, but I did get a picture of the creepy Nara mascot (Sento-kun) dressed as Santa.

We ended up heading back to Kyoto and eating in Porta again. This time we ate at a Japanese noodle place. After a nice (and cheap!) dinner we hurried to make it to church in time. We had found a church online that said there were English services. However, the day before we learned that none of the Christmas Eve services were in English. We didn't have any time to try and find a different church though. So we decided to just go even though it was in Japanese.

We arrived at the church with only a few minutes to spare. It was packed! I hadn't really expected that in Japan.

The experience was... interesting... but kind of how I expected it to be. I understood very little of what was said. Except I understood the very beginning of the sermon. He said something about how in English, "Christ" is part of the word "Christmas." In Japan it's called Kurisumasu and their word for Christ is Kurisuto, so it's not the same for them. However, after that I was lost, though I heard the words "birth" and "God" a few times.

I didn't even recognize most of the songs with the exception of Oh Holy Night and one other that I can't remember now. It was really hot and I got tired of standing. It seemed to take a really long time and still didn't make it feel like Christmas, but I'm still glad I went. It was definitely an interesting experience!


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