You could be forgiven if you thought that we had had enough history lessons after 4 days in Tokyo and Kyoto. But on day 5 we visited Nara, and this was really historical Japan. Only Japan can claim that their first “permanent” national capital was set up in 710 AD. Prior to setting up this ancient capital, says the Lonely Planet guide, Shintoism brought with it the belief that when a new emperor reigned, the capital must also be moved. (Continuing to rule where a past regent died was a bad omen, to say the least.)
In Nara, a park encapsulates the ancient sites of where this first capital was born. The largest Buddha sculpture I have ever seen was on display at the Todai-ji temple. Surrounding it was multiple holy buildings, gates, and pagodas. It was truly a magnificent slice of history that is being proudly preserved for the coming generations to enjoy.
I would be remissed to leave out the most playful and people-friendly wild deer which greet visitors around these historical sites. For $1.50 I got to share “biscuits” with these awesome animals. And when I wasn’t looking, my map got bitten twice! The 1200 deer that romp around the area are a major highlight of this park. I should actually say “town” because they would occasionally walk around the bus stops, enter shops, and pose for photos along the paths. Continue reading Nara’s History and Yamazaki’s Whisky
2015 is the year I returned to Asia for a brief visit. After leaving China in 2013, and getting myself fairly settled in the Boston area, I felt the need to reconnect with my Asian roots! Although I’ve loved being home and getting re-acclimated, a piece of my previous life was missing… the unexpected adventures, the quirky misunderstandings, and the unbelievable cuisine that you find anywhere in East Asia. So, from April 8-22 I ventured back into the wild – this time it was Japan.
My cousin Jake and I have always talked about backpacking and cycling parts of Japan and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Today I start a series of posts about this trip through Japan from the foot of Mt. Aso, Japan’s largest active volcano. (I’ll get to how badass this place is soon). We’ve taken wrong turns (and very right turns!) across this majestic land, but the one thing that has remained consistent is the friendliness and generosity of the Japanese people. They are without a doubt the masters of hospitality.
In the following posts I’ll take you on a journey across this mysterious and majestic archipelago – where the sun rises first every morning and the stars sparkle brightly every night. We started in Tokyo where the neon lights, funky costumes, and glorious Edo past is still visible. Then we’ll walk among the artifacts of previous realms in Kyoto and dance with deer in Japan’s ancient capital of Nara. After that, we’ll visit Japan’s oldest surviving castle in Himeji where the “white heron” was finished being renovated only 2 weeks before we got there! We’ll sip on fine whiskies at the Yamazaki distillery before taking the bullet train (Shinkansen) to Hiroshima. We’ll step upon ground once too radiated by an atomic bomb for anyone to visit and see the horror of those times through the Peace museum. Not far from there we voyage to Miyajima to visit the most frequently photographed landmark – the great floating Torri. And that’s just the first half of our trip!