Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day trip to Nara- Part 2 (Mochi, Temples and Buddha oh my!)

This is part two of my day trip. After leaving behind the deer we got to the heart and soul of Nara: Todaiji. This temple was originally constructed in the Nara period (710-794) and was rebuilt and fixed after quite a few destructive fires. The temple survives to this day but at 2/3 of its original size. Despite that Todaiji is still the world's largest wooden structure.

We arrived at the entrance to the southern gate, inside this gate are beautiful wooden sculptures but its hard to get a good photograph of them because they are behind some heavy duty chicken wire. Here's a close up of a giant foot!

We continued past the gate and arrived at the main building. We washed our hands and faces in the fresh water as is traditional before entering the temple.



Here I am posing far away from the temple! Last time I was here with Robin it was so quiet and empty. Not today!

This guy sits outside the temple covered in red clothing. It is said if you have pain somewhere you should touch him on that spot and then yourself and you will heal. I couldn't reach his shoulders or his back or anywhere else that I'm actually sore. I got his knee so hopefully it will help keep my knee healthy.

Little demon guy

A beautiful lantern with very intricate detailing outside the entrance.


Inside the temple is the Daibutsu; Japan's largest and very golden Buddha. The Buddha is made of copper and bronze, he weighs 250 tons and stands 30 meters tall. The photo doesn't do him justice. His hair is all individually made balls and the eyes were hand painted on at the Buddha's dedication ceremony in 752.

Another close up of featuring the golden guys floating around Buddha


There are other large, golden statues in the temple but I'm not sure of their significance.


Maybe this gives you a sense of scale?

This is one of the guard statues also in the temple

At the back of the temple is a hole in one of the pillars. It is said that those who can wiggle through it will be blessed with enlightenment. There's a line of children who are waiting to go through and their parents waiting to take photos of their kids looking through the pillar. This hole is also the size of Buddha's nostril on the statue. This totally cracks me up! I like the idea of small Japanese children crawling through Buddha's nostril to reach enlightenment.

Here's the other side of the statue with another golden figure that is also really exquisite. We left the temple and headed back through the parks of Nara. It was slowly getting dark and the temples were closing as they usually do around 5. As we walked through the streets in the city of Nara we came upon an impressive street scene. . .

The men in the mochi shop was pounding bright, green mochi and yelling loudly. The mochi is pounded in a traditional mortar called a usu with giant wooden mallets called a kine. A crowd was gathered around the shop to watch the men pound the mochi.

Next, the pounded dough was put into a machine that filled the mochi with red bean paste, the small green discs of mochi were then quickly dusted with a powder and sold to members of the crowd. After watching the excitement for a minute Victo and I decided we wanted some fresh mochi to snack on. The mochi guys kept a steady rhythm as one would pound the dough and yells ichi (one). On ichi's upswing the other yells ni (tw0) and he hits the dough. This seems to prevent them from hitting each other and seems very useful when someone needs to put a hand in to turn the dough they are able to do so.

The sun started setting as we made our way back to the train station. It was a pretty fabulous day; I enjoyed the ramen I had for lunch, the vintage postcards I picked up at a little bookshop and all the photos I got of the temple and the deer. It was a long way home ; we still had to catch a train and then bike back to the dorms but we made it back around 11 after enjoying a delicious dinner in a drinking place with lots of tasty food.

Coming up: A sneak peak at some sketches.