Saturday was family day. This is the trip that the host families can accompany us on, and today we are off to Nara (the ancient capital of Japan). We met at Kyoto Station of catch our bus. It’s about an hour drive out to Nara.
The bus was a very comfortable charter bus, so the ride was tolerable. The students had stocked up on snacks for the day.
The entrance to the Todai-ji Temple is massive. Nara is populated by over 2,000 sacred deer. They range in size from a large dog to what in California would be considered a small deer. This is the area you first encounter these deer when visiting Nara.
The temple itself is massive. It is quite amazing to realize this was handmade, and is the largest wooden structure in the world.
Once you are inside the Buddhist temple you are in awe of the largest Buddha in the world staring down on you as you enter the building.
A supporting column in the back of the hall has a hole the same size as one of the Buddha’s nostrils. Legend has it that those who pass through it will be blessed with enlightenment in their next life. Not everyone makes it through.
While others slide through the hole with ease.
Once we were through the Buddha Hall we let all the students go to explore the area of Nara. There are many temples, monuments, shrines, gardens, ponds, and other things to see if you just walk a bit. Being the peak of the cherry blossoms, many areas are bursting with pink blossoms.
And I don’t think many students missed out on feeding the deer. All through the Nara area there are vendors selling wafers for the deer. You get a stack of ten wafers for a handful of yen. If you hold the wafer in front of the deer they will bow before taking it (bend down on front legs and lower their head).
After having lunch, and seeing the sights around Nara, we hopped back on our bus and headed for Byodoin. This temple was built in 998 and is on the back of the Ten Yen coin.
The museum at Byodoin is simply amazing. No pictures are allowed inside due to the age of some of the artifacts, but I always enjoy visiting this temple.
This is usually the place where the students start to realize how long of a history Japan has. The dates on the displays start to sink in, and the rich history shows itself to them in many ways. There is no better place to experience this rich history than the area of Kyoto with its many temples and World Heritage Sites.
After everyone sampled the vending machines across the street and tried green tea ice cream, it was time to get back on the bus and head back to Kyoto Gakuen to meet up with host families. Tomorrow would be spent with host families, and it was the chaperone’s only day away from the students during the trip. We planned this year to travel to Hiroshima.