Nara was one of the places we particularly wanted to visit but as usual, there’s too much to see and do in one day.
We haven’t been able to find out the name of the Japanese art of knitting electric and telephone cables in the sky.
But this is what we see on our walk to our local railway station.
The trains cater for all sorts of people. There are ‘women only’ carriages which reinforces yet again how nasty and disrespectful some men are. But there are low hanging hangers for short people (hello Liesel).
Two trains later, we arrived at Nara.
On the way out of the station, we were engulfed by Jehovah’s Witnesses. One approached me and said ‘Hello, my name’s Hirokiro, I’m a Jehovah’s Witness, what’s your name?” I was impressed by his honesty. At home, we’re used to JWs offering a free magazine, asking what you thing about the state of the world, anything other than be upfront and admit what they’re trying to sell you.
And that wasn’t the end of the day’s nuisances. Nara is famed for the deer that live in and around the parks in the town centre. Quite nice to see the first one or two, but eventually, we were trying to steer clear. You can buy food for them, and some are so well bred that they bow in the Japanese manner for a tasty treat.
There’s an expression in Nara for when something is blindingly obvious: Does a deer poo in the High Street?
We dodged the pellets and the pee and perambulated towards the parks.
The first, Yoshiki-en Garden, was free for foreigners, which we appreciated of course, but we couldn’t see why they did this.
As you’d expect, it was very peaceful. There’s a Moss Garden which prompted me to hum the David Bowie song of that name (and to play the real thing for Liesel when we got home in the evening). We regretted not appreciating our own moss garden in Chessington, but we wanted grass.
There is great respect for old people in Japan, but also for old trees. They’re not averse to using props to help the oldies stay upright. (Trees, not people.)
We’ve been bitten a couple of times by insects, but we’ve not actually that many. A few flies, a couple of bees, and a bright yellow butterfly that’s followed us here from Tokyo. It usually flutters by too fast but I managed to catch it today in Nara.
Why have a boring old brick wall when you can have something as ornate as this?
A bit further along, we found Isuien Garden. It too was very pretty, and we can only imagine how colourful it would be in Springtime. Yes, we agreed we’d have to come back. But Autumn has its own colours too.
The gravel path was ok on the whole, but every one of the millions of stones tried to get into my sandals and a few succeeded. How the locals must have laughed as this Englishman holding onto a tree while kicking a foot as if at an invisible dog, shaking stones out.
We walked to Todaiji Temple, trying not to trip over the relaxing wildlife. Make yourself at home, I said. We are at home, he replied.
At this Temple, there were no restrictions on taking pictures. The Great Buddha resides in one of the world’s largest wooden structures.
The wooden guardians do a great job: the facial expressions are enough to frighten anyone away. But we were here with good intentions, so I don’t think they minded much.
Equally, they didn’t protect us from the hordes of school children practicing their English language skills. We were approached by several groups, each asking a series of questions. Where are you from? What’s your favourite animal? What do you want to see in Japan? We were given a small origami model by one of the groups, a cue to other groups that we’d been interviewed. Some of the older students, 6th grade, 11-12 years old, I think, asked: What is the goodness of Japan? Well, the people are friendly, helpful, welcoming, the views are stunning, we could have given a long list. Then: What is the goodness of your country? UK? USA? Hard to think of much positive in the heat of the moment, what with Trump and Brexit. So I think I said British weather was interesting. What a cop-out.
They were all very polite, though. We’d spent a day at Disneysea and the children there were all well behaved too: no tantrums, no siblings fighting, I don’t think we even heard any babies crying.
Walking back to the railway station, we passed some of these posts. They played announcements, maybe adverts that we couldn’t understand, of course, and in between, they played some nice, light jazz music.
Amongst all the modern shops, we found this cute little place. Is it a shrine? A private house? It’s a mystery, to us.
On the train back to Kyoto, we fell into conversation with a pair of doctors. The coronary specialist spoke reasonable English, the endocrinologist not so much. But we talked about the Japanese pilot who’d been arrested in England for being drunk in charge of his aeroplane. We showed each other pictures of our respective grandchildren: his two are a few years older and we saw videos of them playing an electric keyboard at home. What a nice bloke and what a pleasant way to pass a long train journey.