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Nara, land of the heavenly deer

Marauding ruminators

Just a short ride, on the Japanese clockwork rail system, from Kyoto is the astonishing city of Nara. Nara was the very first capital city of Japan, the starting location of the Silk Road, and the first place Buddhism arrived in Japan in AD 710. When you get to Nara it is a simple, and very rewarding, process to enlist a free guide to show you around. College students offer their time for free so that they can practice their English with you.

The largest wooden temple, well at least one of them

According to legend a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer, to guard the capital. This myth has raised the deer to the status of heavenly animals. Today tame deer roam through the town, especially in Nara Park. Snack vendors sell "shika sembei" (deer biscuits) to feed the deer. However, be warned that once you start feeding these deer they turn from pleasant creatures to hungry and unruly mobs of marauding ruminators. Some of the deer have learned to bow in response to tourists' bows, but most just nudge, jostle, and even bite you for food. Despite thousands of cookie eating deer, in and around Nara, there is no deer poop. This is due to groups of chanting locals, armed with dustpans and brushes, who scope-up the poop of the sacred poopers.

There are eight temples, shrines and ruins in Nara. All of these wonderful places together with Kasugayama Primeval Forest collectively form the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara", which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You must see Nara, before you pass off your mortal coil. Join me on the next leg of our trip around Japan.


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