Nara, a former capital of Japan, sits East of Osaka and is famous for its ancient temples and shrines which collectively form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today is a Japanese public holiday; Vernal Equinox Day – a day for the admiration of nature and the love of living things. It seems apt then that I’m wandering around beautiful parklands watching the deer and seeking out the first few signs of the cherry blossoms beginning to bloom.
There’s so much beauty in Nara, both natural and man-made, that my eyes are darting everywhere, trying to take in every minute detail of the landscapes and architecture. From five-story pagodas to grand buildings to ornate gates and bells and shrines. Every angle looks awe inspiring and I’m taking far too many photos.
The big Buddha is magnificent and I watch as people light incense sticks and place them gently in a sand-filled bowl at the entrance. Some pray, and some just breathe the perfumed air deeply into their lungs.
If you stray down side streets and off the main route there’s a stillness and tranquility to Nara that I like. It’s that special time of year now… we’re emerging from the cold Winter but it’s not quite Spring yet… there’s a feeling of anticipation and hope in the air. I watch the deer sitting quietly – a contrast to the ones in the busy areas that chase people and whip up into a frenzy when someone gets a packet of biscuits out.
The Japanese gardens are landscaped perfectly but I feel I’m a couple of weeks too early to fully appreciate them. Soon they’ll explode with colour and really show off their full potential.
I feel a few spots of rain so start to head back, stopping to buy a pork bun (a new addiction of mine). When I emerge from the Subway station in Osaka it’s torrential rain and I run back to the hostel thinking of that episode of Mythbusters where they tested which makes you wetter – running or walking in rain? I can never remember the result of their experiments though. I got soaked.