The Temple & the Deer – Cherry Blossoms in Nara
Cherry Blossoms Trip Part Six
Nara (奈良), in ancient Japan, used to be the imperial capital, during the times conveniently known as the Nara period (AD 710-784). Those were the days long before Kyoto or more recently Tokyo were established as major metropolitan cities like today. Today, Nara still stands out as a living ancient city, with its remarkable number of temples, shrines, ruins, and during the Hanami festival these historic monuments provided a classic and beautiful backdrop for the cherry blossoms. It takes just 30 minutes to travel here from Osaka or Kyoto and is definitely worth a visit if you are in this region.
The most famous temple in Nara is the Todaiji Temple (東大寺, literally Eastern Temple). Deer roam freely in the nearby Nara Park, a vast expanse of parkland lined with sakura trees and ponds.
I instantly fell in love with this place the moment I arrived. It was so beautiful! The weather was fine and it was a perfect day for Hanami. The petals fell from the trees like snow, carried by a cool breeze. It was a wonderful spring time.
The Todaiji Temple is a world heritage site as declared by the UNESCO. It is the largest wooden building in the world and is a marvelous piece of architecture. Inside, it houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha. Wow, that’s quite a record!
And of course, from any post card or photo collections of the Nara district you can see their ubiquitous appearance – the deer are everywhere! I loved the picture on the left below, it depicted the scene very well, with the full cherry blossoms standing tall in the background and the deer looking at you. They say, am I not beautiful?
But well, to our surprise, these mammals were not so cute when you take out the food to feed them. Some of them (I presume they are forever hungry) became ferocious and start biting and licking at you. Often the careless traveler would be chased by the animals.
The Sika deer roam the grounds freely as they were sacred beings, in the Shinto religion (native Japanese religion) they were the the holy messengers. According to Wikipedia they are almost extinct in East Asian countries apart from Japan, where they are over-abundant. If you visit Nara once, you can see why.
The Nara park is packed with overseas tourists and locals who wished to enjoy a weekend break. The beautiful scenery makes it a relaxing place. I took out my macro lens for some close-up shots of the pine cone and the sakura against the bright blue cloudless sky.
The Magnificent Cherry Blossoms
Updated 30 April: some more shots of the cherry blossom in the grand Nara park, as previously promised. I hope you enjoyed the pictures and the place as much as I did!
That’s it for now! How I wish to go back to the wonderful place and have our vacation all over again. Check out the full gallery below: