Finally, for the last part of our trip, Nara! If you haven’t read the previous two parts of the Mt Koya and Nara trip, here are the links!
Nara was probably the most anticipated part of the school trip for many students. Nara is known for its abundance of deer, especially in Nara Park. According to legend, Takemikazuchi (considered the Japanese god of thunder and swords) arrived in Nara on a white deer to protect the newly built capital of Heijou-kyou. Since then, deer have been regarded as sacred messengers of the gods who protect the city. The park is home to hundreds of deer.
The deer at Nara Park are tame, so if you bow to the deer, they will bow back!
Most of the group brought Shikasenbei, a snack to feed to the deer. A couple of us tried taking pictures with the deer!
Slightly north of Nara Park is Todaiji Temple, considered one of the world’s most powerful temples. The temple is still used today as a headquarter for teaching Buddhism. It houses the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha.
Inside we found a line forming near a pillar. No one is certain why or how the hole in the pillar was formed, but we were told by locals it was a superstition that if you could get through the hole, you can stay healthy and be blessed with enlightenment in your next life.
Finally, when it was time to call it a night, we stayed at a youth hostel. Compared to the rest of the trip, it wasn’t anything fancy—I guess the futon isn’t for everyone, but it certainly beats sleeping on the bus.
After breakfast, we went to a mikan field to get some mikans! I was kind of confused about why this was on our itinerary, since our trip was supposed to be about Zen and seeing the more traditional side of Japan. It was fun regardless, and it was a great to give to my host family!
Our last destination was to an onsen before returning back to Tokyo. There isn’t much of a difference between an onsen and a hot bath, besides the fact that onsens are bathing facilities located around hot springs. They both follow similar rules of courtesy: absolutely no clothes or towels, shower first, before entering the onsen or bath, and then shower again before putting your clothes back on. The awkwardness of being naked had already faded away for most of the group.
I think everyone that went on this trip had a great time and it was exactly the kind of break we needed before our final weeks of school! It’s still really hard to believe that in a couple days, I’ll be returning home and my adventure in Japan will be over (or will it?!). I really do miss my family and friends back at home, but at the same time, Japan has been such a wonderful experience for me that I don’t think I ever completely exit the “honeymoon phase”!