Nara, Japan

We took a day-break from our short Kyoto romping last weekend to visit Nara, Japan's first capital established in 710BC.  It was during this time that the most important influences from China, namely Buddhism and kanji characters, made their impact upon Japan, something that is definitely still visible today.
Kofuku-ji Temple-710BC


One of the prettiest areas of Nara is Nara-koen park, a tranquil setting home to over 1,000 old stone lanterns.  In addition, some of the ancient capital's most important sites call the Nara-koen home.
(Lanterns slightly modified from their historical context)

1,000 lanterns pale, however, in comparison to the 2,000+ deer who roam freely and unintimidated throughout the park.  In pre-Buddhist times, the deer were considered messengers of the gods and today enjoy status as Japanese National Treasures.

These lovely treasured, heavenly messengers especially love to descend on children and "smaller" tourists who have the misfortune of carrying food (or train passes).  There are deer biscuits for sale in the park if you prefer, instead, to pay for your divine molestation.  
Not to be outdone by the old stone lanterns, the Kasuga Taisha shrine has 2,000 bronze lanterns gracing the premises.  I was a little disappointed we hadn't arrived in time for the Lantern Festival...I'm sure it's an amazing sight!
One of the coolest sites from our trip was the Todai-ji Temple with the massive Daibutsu-den Hall, which indecently is the largest wooden building in the world!  It was originally built in the 8th century, went through a few of the typical fires, and was reconstructed in the 1700s at only 2/3 of its original size!!!

Inside is a colossal seated Buddha, with fingers the size of a human!  Super impressive!
So, Nara wasn't all shrines and deer, but it was a nice little day trip adding to our Japanese image fantasies (which apparently includes Sega World as well)!