Gardens and Deer in Nara, Japan

Today I finally travelled to Nara, the first permanent capital of Japan. Being my last day in the Kansai region, I figured this was the perfect place to check off my travel list.

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The deer go crazy for cookies that visitors can purchase for feeding

After arriving at Nara Station, my first destination was to find to Naramachi, a neighborhood of streets lined with old shops, houses, and restaurants. For a small snack along the way, I purchased a couple pieces of fried food from a shop stand consisting of squid, an edamame cake, and crab + egg roll. The food was okay, a little on the oily side.

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Variety of fried foods

After getting to Naramachi, I found it pretty quiet. I did come across a super old print making and stamp shop though where I got to try out some old stamps and talk to the shop owners about the scorching hot weather. But other than that, there wasn’t much else.

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A keepsake from the stamp shop
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Purchased from a vending machine, this drink was absolutely necessary on the hot summer day

After walking past a five-story pagoda, I came across Nara-koen Park. As I got closer and closer, I could see the famous hoards of deer roaming across the sidewalk and grass. Big deer, baby deer, deer with spots, and deer with horns wandered in search of people bearing special deer cookies. These cookies were for sale for 150¥ at a little stall, and the deer went absolutely CRAZY for them. Once they spotted someone with an un-eaten treat in their hands, all the deer would swarm, bow their heads once, then proceed to try to eat the snack. I knew Nara was famous for their deer, but I hadn’t quiet expected a scene like the one I saw before me.

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Deer all around Nara-Koen park
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Deer cookies for sale
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Looking for a treat

I finished a quick photoshoot of all the deer, the proceeded to visit two gardens. The first was the smaller of the two, called Yoshiki-en garden. It had a small pond that I enjoyed sitting near to rest from the hot sun.

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Yoshiki-en Garden

The second garden was called Isuien garden, and it was incredible. It was so hot and I had been walking for hours that I first took a rest at the garden’s tea shop. I sat in a tatami room facing the garden and cooled off with an order of zenzai– a japanese sweet soup made from red beans and filled with chewy mochi balls. I ordered mine chilled and savored the sweet coolness while taking in all the lush garden greenery. When I finished the dessert, it was time to explore.

I took my time at this garden since there was so much to see. From every angle, the surrounding trees, rocks, pathway, and water gave the garden a new feel. At one point it was very colorful and open, at another, dark green trees created a cool canopy to stand under. This was definitely my favorite garden in Japan, because of its vastness, beautiful colors, and tranquility.

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Isuien Garden- down at ground level
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Isuien Garden- a drop in time
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Isuien Garden

Finally after the gardens, it was time to visit the most popular Nara attraction- Todaiji Temple. This temple is the largest wooden structure in the world (even though it had been burned down and rebuilt to 2/3 its original size), and houses a massive 16-meter tall Buddha. Walking around the temple, you can almost feel the looming spirit of the statue following you. In one part of the temple, there is a wooden pillar with a hole carved out of it. The saying goes that if a child can crawl through the hole, they will be blessed with enlightenment. While the idea of enlightenment was tempting, I opted to only photograph children going through the hole rather than attempt it myself.

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Giant 16 m Buddha overlooks the entire entryway
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Children who fit through the hole are said to be blessed with enlightenment

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