Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Nara Deer Park

One of the places on my Japan travel list was the city of Nara, known for it's famous Deer Park. I recently got to visit and experience the over 1,000 wild Sika deer that roam the park.  I found out that in  the Shinto religion these deer are considered to be messengers of the gods. 

The deer inhabit in this 1,200 acre park, doing their thing, and waiting to be fed crackers by tourists. The deer are extremely friendly, but can get a little aggressive when they know you have crackers to feed them, many of them tugging at your coat or nuzzling their head into your side. None that I could see had large racks of antlers and the few male deer that I witnessed had their antlers sawed off. Safe for the visitors, but of course not natural for the deer. These deer were smaller and a bit more stout than the whitetail deer native to my state of Michigan. 

Deery want a cracker?
Do you have a message for me?
A second reason I was eager to visit Nara Park is because it is the site of Todai-ji, spectacular Buddhist temple complex. The Great Buddha Hall is the largest wooden structure in the world and it houses a 50-foot bronze Buddha statue, the largest bronze Buddha in the world. (That's a lot of superlatives to hit!) When I learned of it's presence there, I knew I wanted to see it in person.

Coming from a person who adores Buddhist art, seeing something like this in person is an incredibly moving experience. As I was approaching the entrance I was becoming more and more excited and when I finally beheld the site, I had my breath taken away. Pictures are a poor representation of what it is like to experience this being's presence in person. 

Another surprise experience was getting to see the statues of Agyo and Ungyo at the entrance of the temple. You may remember my post about this a while ago. The statues I had pictured in that post were in fact the very ones that guard Todai-ji! When I was approaching and realizing that I was going to get to see these statues in person I got butterflies in my stomach. They did not photograph well, but maybe you can get some idea of their size.

Being in the presence of these two figures was a similar but heightened reaction that I had before when seeing similar figures like these. I don't think I scare easily, but these two send a chill down your spine like being alone in a dark forest. Though they are stationary, their expressive movement makes you feel like they are going to jump down and engulf you at any moment. I wanted to look at them, and stand between them, and experience the sheer power they radiated. Though it's frightening their craftsmanship undoubtedly leaves the viewer in awe. These guardians of the temple surely do their job at warding off evil.

While traversing the park their are numerous other temples and shrines to visit. Please enjoy a few more pictures from my trip to Nara Deer Park.