Monday, January 31, 2005

Daibutsu Nara

On the last day of our christmas/new-year's holidays we decided to drive out to Nara to visit the giant statue of Budda. The temple grounds are considered to be a national treasure and would easily live up to anyone's expectations of "traditional" Japan.

I've been out there quite a few times now, but the temple complex is huge and a day is not enough to explore everything so it warrants regular return trips. On this occasion we just wandered along sampling hot food from the various street stalls along the way to temple of the fat happy chappy...

Deer warning
"Beware deer leaping gracefully into the air"
The temple grounds are home to a large number of wild deer who are allowed to roam around freely, and pose for photographs with tourists in return for snacks or money. (They have their own union)

Deer profile
Profile of one of the younger deers. My nature photography has a long way to go, but this will serve as the rudimentary sensible animal shot. The larger deers had all had their antlers removed for obvious safety reasons and weren't quite as photogenic.

Feeding deers
Misaki and Tyler captured moments before the one closest to Tyler pawed the stick he was trying to feed it out his hand. He was very upset because he was genuinely trying to feed it but in his 3 year-old innocense had to learn the hard way that deers don't eat wood.
I was too busy trying to warn him to actually capture that moment, and then too busy laughing.

They're eating my jacket!
Misaki bought some crackers to feed the deers with Tyler, but delegated the task to me soon after discovering how un-shy they are when it comes to accepting snacks from strangers.
I thought I'd use my height to my advantage but they just one-up'ed me and started eating my jacket. It's plastic too!
The street stall attendant did a fine job of ignoring the spectacle, but in another shot taken of the same moment there's a guy in the background fully pissing himself laughing as he walks past, it's great.

People at the temple
Here we are doing the standard tourist pose in front of the temple housing the giant Budda. It really doesn't give any hint of the scale of the thing - it's at least 100-200 meters behind us.
Let's just take a look at it front on:

Daibutsu toudaiji
That's much more betterer - notice how the people on the walkway approaching it diminish into indiscernable specs in the entrance.
The Daibutsu Toudaiji is the largest wooden structure in the world as I recall, even though what stands today is a reconstruction of what was originally a much larger building again. It's just massive.

Budda's head
Once inside it takes quite a while for your eyes to adjust to the darkness before you can really take in the enormity of the giant Budda. Strangely enough there are signs up everywhere banning the use of camera tripods, but their attempts to foil our photographic efforts were in vein as we were armed with 420mm of optical zoom and intelligent optical image stabilisation which allowed us to snap off this pic hand-held with no flash. Yes, I'm quite chuffed about our camera but will resist raving about it too much.
His head itself is probably about the same height as a person.

This slightly scary looking guy is seated off to Budda's right, and despite being twice a person's height is dwarfed by his spiritual mentor.
There are a couple of really scary looking guys carved out of wood too, but they didn't turn out too well. Maybe next time.

Tyler emerges from a pole
There's a huge wooden pylon with a small slot cut in it's base which has some superstitious quality like bringing good luck to those who pass through it. As you can see, if you're not a toddler you'd have to be lucky to get through. Last time we visited I made it with the assistance of several people dragging me out the other side, but this time Misaki and I both declined and settled for watching Tyler doing laps through it until he had to be dragged away.
Funny, last time we had to drag him through, he's really growing up fast.
And my programmer's muscle has grown to the point where I wouldn't want to try. (read: beer belly)

Misaki hits the gong of gongyness. Behind her is part of a life-size reproduction of the lotus petals at the base of the statue of Budda. Each petal is about the size of a person. Check out the red wooden railing behind to get an idea of scale from the next and final image:

Big Budda
The Daibutsu.
It still doesn't really convey it's size, but here, captured with modern technology, is the Daibutsu of Nara.

It's really big.

So there you have it. Head out there if you get the chance, and as tempting as they may look, those crackers are for the deer, not people. It's happened, tourists have unwittingly consumed the sacred wafers, but I'm sure they're quite nutritious for people and deer alike, I know I've been tempted.

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