I figured that, even if Mom hated everything else about this trip, it would be really hard for her to not enjoy meeting a few of these:
You might be thinking wow, that’s a long way to travel for a petting zoo, and you’d be right. However, the deer in Nara are famous for bowing for cookies. Basically, you hold up a cookie, they bow three times, and then you give them a cookie.
The locals say that they have done this since the beginning of history, because Buddha or the trees or whatever told them that someday, just someday, millions of people every year would come and give them cookies and make this whole bowing thing totally worth it.
So they say.
Anyway, we tried this cookie thing and it didn’t quite go according to plan.
I’m not sure Mom felt this way, but I thought it was hilarious. Those deer saw her coming and thought now here’s an easy mark.
She wasn’t the only one. This guy held back on the cookies and got punted.
So if you visit Nara, plan on spending 150 Yen on protection money for the gangs of deer.
(I kid, I kid. It’s not really that bad, but some of those deer can be a little aggressive…)
This isn’t supposed to be a post about deer, however. Good thing there’s also a giant Buddha statue in an equally giant temple: Todai-Ji.
There were plenty of tourists visiting, which made for crowded conditions inside. Buddhists coming here to pay their respects to Buddha cleanse their spirits with incense as well, which made for smoky conditions inside.
To give you an idea of just how big this guy is, that railing in the foreground was about twice as tall as I am.
This particular incarnation of Buddha is the second largest in Japan, and is flanked by two Kannon (champions at wish granting, and usually seen with a bazillion hands) to help share the work of looking after all these people.
Two more warriors stand behind him, guarding his back. These are Komokuten and Tamonten, two of the Four Heavenly Kings and guardians of the cardinal directions.
The two other guardians used to be to the front of Buddha (Zocho-ten and Jikoku-ten), but they were removed at some point.
There were a few people coming here to pray, but the vast majority were there to take pictures and buy good luck charms. It was a little strange being such an obvious tourist in what is ostensibly a religious site. Regardless, everybody seemed to accept the press of people as just part of the journey.