Friday, March 9, 2012

nara in a day - nara park & tōdai-ji

After checking out Kōfuku-ji I headed over to Tōdai-ji, which is the only other place that had an early closing time that I actually wanted to check out inside Nara Park. Thought I would check it out now and check it off my list so I didn't have to worry about closing times and so on. On the way I saw some other features of the park.
sarusawa-ike  pond
nara national museum
I loved the western architecture of the Nara National Museum and while walking on the grounds in front of the museum it gave me a feeling like I was in Golden Gate Park back in San Francisco except for all the deer. I actually managed to sneakily buy some deer biscuits at a vendor located on the grassy knoll near the museum. There was a bunch of deer hovering near the biscuit case but I went to another case they had located in the back with no deer nearby. Then I called the sales lady over, purchased a packet of biscuits and hid it in my bag, all without the deer knowing. Huzzah for avoiding a rush of deer and managing to get out with all my biscuits intact!

himuro shrine
There was nothing remarkable about Himuro Shrine and besides some people doing some construction there was no one besides me visiting this place. I only stopped here because the shrine was right across from the Nara National Museum and since it was on the way I figured I should take a look. The Himuro Shrine is more known for its cherry trees but since it was still a little too early for it, this was all I got...

flowerless cherry blossom tree
Now on to Tōdai-ji which is a Buddhist temple complex known for having the world's largest wooden building and largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana. That's two world largest things in one place! The largest wooden building is called the Daibutsuden and the statue is known as Daibutsu, the Japanese term for giant Buddha. Even though the Daibutsuden is the largest wooden building in the world, it is only 2/3 of it's original size after several fires burned down the original structure.

From this angle the statue doesn't look that impressive but just his hand is as tall as a human being! The statue measures 15 meters tall! I was trying to take some pictures of me in front of the statue but it was a complete fail. It was super sunny today and the area in front of the statue was in the light so whenever I took a picture the Daibutsu was in shadow and couldn't be seen. Also in the hall is a pillar with a hole through it. It is said that the hole is the size of the Daibutsu's nostril and anyone who can squeeze through this hole will be granted enlightenment in the next life.

look whose gonna be enlightened?
I would have liked to attempt this but I was by myself and had no one to document it for me. Also the hole looked really small. It was funny but these big European men were trying to squeeze through and they couldn't even get their shoulders in. Then this woman goes and squeezes right through while wearing a jacket! Haha only Asians and children are meant to be enlightened!

To the right of the entrance of Daibutsuden is the statue of Binzura, short for Pindola Bharadvaja one of Buddha's disciples. It is commonly believed that if you rub a part of the statue and the corresponding part on your own body that the ailment will disappear.

However the way this statue is situated on a pedestal makes it impossible to reach anything but his foot. So I rubbed his foot and then rubbed my heart. I'm afraid of having heart problems because of all the fried foods I eat. I wonder if it will work since I technically don't have any foot problems but I couldn't reach the heart on the statue! Binzura's is frequently offered red and white bibs and children's caps to watch over the children's health - hence his red cape. In Japan, red is associated with expelling demons and disease.

Approaching Tōdai-ji you'll pass through the Great South Gate, better known as the Nandaimon, which houses two giant statues representing the Nio, guardians of Buddha.

The Daibutsuden is the only building of Tōdai-ji which requires an entrance fee. The rest of the temple complex is free to enter though I'm not sure if they have specific closing times like that of the Daibutsuden. Another famous hall of Tōdai-ji is the Nigatsu-dō, the Hall of the Second Month. The Shuni-e, Second-Month Service, is a ceremony held every year on the second month of the lunar calender and is so famous that the hall's name refers to it. The ceremony is typically held between March 1-15 which meant I got to see it and so I will talk more about that later.

The hall doesn't have much, just a place to throw your donations and to pray. Most of it is off limits and is closed off to the public. It does however offer a pretty nice view of Nara Park.

To me those black tiled roofs are a quintessential part of Japanese architecture.

The Details
Tōdai-ji - Daibutsuden
hours: 8:00‒16:30(Nov. to Feb.) 8:00‒17:00(Mar.)7:30‒17:30(Apr. to Sept.) 7:30‒17:00(Oct.)
admission: 500 yen

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