Monday, April 5

Korea-Japan, Day Fourteen: Nara

Nara was to be our final day trip in Japan, and after a relatively lazy start we arrived in the area at around 10am. The most striking thing about Nara is the large number of free roaming deer just walking about the streets, hassling any passer-by who was offering them food (every few metres there would inevitably be a deer biscuit seller to satisfy any urge a tourist had to feed one). It added to the whole natural vibe of the area and we spent quite a while in awe of how tame and majestic they were.

back on the sightseeing trail we passed by the equally majestic five story pagoda on our way through the Nandaimon Gate in order to get to the main reason I wanted to come to Nara in the first place: to see the Daibutsu sitting in the Todaiji Temple. This is a massive metal statue of the Buddha which, in Nara, happens to be enclosed in a great hall - itself being the largest wooden building in the world. Despite being awesome to look at, what's amazing about the hall is that it's actually only two thirds of the size it originally was. Behind the Buddha is a wooden post with a hole that is apparently the same size as one of the Buddha's nostrils - passing through this grants one enlightenment, but I chose to try it just for the challenge (and yes, I made it through okay).

Since Nara is pretty small, we were more or less done with the other sights and attractions in the area (including Nigatsu-do Hall and the Kasuga Shrine) by lunchtime. After grabbing some food in Nara we headed back to Osaka for more wondering around. Our first objective was to check out Festival Gate, a shopping and entertainment complex south of Den Den Town, but when we finally found it, it was closed and even a bit derelict. The journey wasn't a complete waste since we got to see the shadier part of Osaka; we decided to quickly take the train back though.

After a brief rest in our hotel we went for dinner and then paid a visit to the bar in the nearby Swissotel. To say my breath was taken away is an understatement as I was treated to one of the best night view of a city that I had ever seen, be it in Japan or elsewhere. Osaka is such a vibrant city at night, with countless buildings amidst a couple of sky scrapers all laid out as far as the eye can see. At last I was treated to the cosmopolitan Japan of my imagination; this wasn't just a modern city but a futuristic one - think Blade Runner and you'll have an idea of what I mean. The bar food and drink was a bit pricey though, but to be honest it was worth it for the view alone.

We now have one more day left in Japan.

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