Before Kyoto was ever capital, Nara was the first capital of Japan and the birthplace of Japanese culture, individual of the Korean and Chinese influence. I decided to take a day trip here from Kyoto to learn more about Japanese history. When I walked out of the station I was again surprised to see Nara was similiarly built up like Kyoto with towering buildings and no evidence of its past. Unlike Kyoto however all of Nara`s historical sights were all in one area, Nara park. This park contained several amazing temples, shrines and statues as well as semi-wild deer that just roam the park coming up to the tourists for food. The deer was definitely a novelty I hadn`t experienced before as they were all so tame and there were so many of them everywhere!
The first few temples, shrines and pagoda`s I saw here were similiar to the ones I had seen in Kyoto but then I came across Todai-ji which was something else all together. With giant torii leading the way to this temple the largest wooden building in the world housed a 15 metre tall, largest in Japan, bronze Buddha. The building was huge considering it was made of wood and had actually been downsized by a third after it had burnt down previously. The Buddha itself was made all the more impressive by the fact it looked like it was bulging out of the monumental building. The two feats were amazing to see and demonstrated the commitment to Buddhism at the time Nara was capital of a young small country.
In Nara I also saw Japan`s oldest building that had withstood everything that had destroyed all of the other buildings in Nara and a temple with an amazing array of lanterns. The two surprise highliights in Nara were the botanical gardens and a pavilion on a lake I stumbled across. The botanical gardens had an array of wisteria in full bloom while I was there which gave the whole gardens a sweet clean smell that was great to indulge in. The other plant and wildlife in the gardens was also nice with a wide selection of typically Japanese plant life.
It turned out that Nara, like Kyoto in the end had quite a nice city itself as well with the odd temple dotted about, a nice atmosphere and the beautiful Nara park just a 5 minute walk from the city centre.