Exploring the Tōdai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha in Nara

Another day, and again, time to move! It was nice to stay a few nights without having to pack again, but it was time to move to the next city. Kyoto indeed it is a fantastic city, with a lot of history, cosmopolitan, a very good connection with nature! It was a strange first impact, but I fell in love and I honestly think I could live there for a while. But it was time to move, time for Nara!

From Kyoto to Nara

Getting there from Kyoto is really easy, for those that have the JR Pass you don’t need to pay extra for that, it just takes around 45 minutes to get there. Once there, you’ll have to walk a bit to get to the interesting part of the city, but the city also has a circular bus route very handy mostly when you have a heavy luggage with you.

Alike Kyoto and Kurashiki, the first impact in Nara wasn’t the best either. The train station is right on the other extreme of the fun part, lucky me, my hostel was close to the temples. Which also means, I had to cross the city… on foot… Distances never are as close as they look like, lesson learned. I think…

Exploring the Tōdai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha in Nara
Exploring the Tōdai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha in Nara

The hostel has a very nice hall, the bedrooms are also quite nice though the stairs to the first floor a bit too steep, going down with all my luggage was challenging… After all the checking, paperwork and dropping the luggage, it was time for some sightseeing. And that’s when I started to love Nara!

Tōdai-ji Temple

Most of the historical area is inside of a small forest, some temples and some pathways for very cool and relaxing walks. My first stop was at the Todai-ji Temple, where you can see the largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, which I didn’t know and totally made my jaw drop. Part of the temple is under reconstruction, it was interesting to see one of the ways they asked for funds, you could buy a tile and write whatever you want there. You would leave not only your money to help rebuilding the temple but also the temple would have something really yours. I really liked that idea, simple and a more personalized.

Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara
Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara

I was really lucky with the weather, really sunny and I could walk a bit through the gardens and buy a few souvenirs before my next stop, the Nigatsu-do. The Nigatsu-do is one of the main structures part of the Todai-ji temple, with an amazing view towards Nara! I had a brief stop there for a cup of green tea, something that I was already getting used to in Japan.

Kasuga Taisha

Traditionally, the Kasuga Taisha has been periodically rebuilt every 20 years for several centuries, though, this custom was discontinued by mid XIX century. Nowadays they are restoring some parts of the roofs using the bark of some local tree, hence the protection you can see around most of those trees so that they can collect the bark.

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One of the main characteristics of this temple, if not THE characteristic, is the amount of lanterns they have in and around the temple. The lanterns inside the temple are made of bronze, while the ones outside are in stone. These lanterns are lit twice a year, in February and August for their Lantern Festivals. The amount of stone lanterns is really amazing, I wonder how long they take to lit all those lanterns.

Bronze Lanterns at the Kasuga Taisha
Bronze Lanterns at the Kasuga Taisha

As I previously said, the surrounding areas are very relaxing, nice pathways through the woods where I found one restaurant for my lunch break, even though that’s a very touristic place, the restaurant wasn’t even pricy. I proceeded with my walk through the woods, and at some point I stopped again at a Garden Café, really nice and that day was just amazing! Perfect for an outdoor tour!

By Gil Sousa

Portuguese expat in Cork, traveler and food enthusiastic.

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