Tōdaiji (1)My initial plan for my second day in the Kansai region was to head down to the temples complexes at Ise (Shinto’s holiest site, containing the sacred mirror of Amaterasu) and/or Kōya-san (Shingon Buddhism’s holiest site, reckoned to be the spot where Miroku Buddha will return to Earth to collect the faithful), but after much train timetable browsing I realised that both would entail around eight hours of travel for two hours of sightseeing. Not wishing to spend any more of my limited time in Japan on a train than necessary, I instead went out to the far more easily-accessible city of Nara (奈良; a former Japanese capital that predates even Kyōto).

Upon arrival, I joined the throngs making their way over to the temple complex of Tōdaiji (東大寺) and did my best to avoid both the worst of the crush and the hungry deer. Like Miyajima, Nara is infested with Sika deer (Cervus nippon) who hang around waiting for people to feed them (one reportedly ate a traveller’s JR Pass). This led to many comic scenes as children of various nationalities got frightened by them, ran away, got chased, got rescued by parents and then tried to eat the deer biscuits themselves.

Nara deer (1)Nara deer (2)

NigatsudoDeer and lanterns

Tōdaiji (2)Graves to Kiyomizudera

The main hall of the temple is gigantic, and so I walked around to the picturesque mountain just behind it to get a better photograph. However, the it turned out to be closed for redevelopment (how do you close a whole mountain for redevelopment?) and the only things there were a few hopeful-looking deer. On my return to Kyōto, I took a very roundabout route back to the hostel and hiked the mountain just behind Kiyomizudera – I had been hoping for a panoramic view of the city at sunset, but was met only with dense stands of cedar.

Kiyomizudera (1)Kiyomizudera (2)