Journal Nine, in which our heroine befriends a flock of deer.
The town of Nara, Japan is known for being Japan’s capitol from 710 to 784; for being the capitol of the Nara prefecture; for having the largest wooden building in the world; and for having herds of relatively tame deer that wander around, harassing tourists for food. The reason for the deer is that according to ancient beliefs, the city’s guardian god rode into town on a white-tailed deer; so Nara’s residents treat deer the same way that citizens of India treats cows: letting them wander around wherever they want. Street vendors sell stacks of ‘shika sembai,’ deer crackers, and the deer know the ritual: As soon as you walk towards the vendor with your￥150 (about $2) the deer start following you, waiting for their handouts. And they’re rather pushy about it, too! One of the bigger males kept trying to steal the crackers I was trying to give to the females and little fawns. After visiting the deer, we trekked to one of the other tourist attractions, the world’s largest wooden building.
Todai-ji temple, in addition to being the world’s largest wooden building, is the home of the largest copper Daibutsu, or giant Buddha sculpture. The daibutsu was truly massive, I would easily fit in his hand. There’s also a hole/tunnel in one of the building’s support pillars that’s supposedly the same size as the Buddha sculpture’s nostril: a foot to a foot and a half tall and maybe eight or ten inches wide. For some reason that my research didn’t identify, crawling through this hole means you will gain enlightenment. Of course, I wasn’t going to turn that down! While standing in line, we realized most of the people attempting this task were small children, as in, under six years old. We weren’t phased at all, even when the parents in line behind us started pointing and saying something that sounded suspiciously like ‘stuck’. I was the first of my friends to attempt it and went through without a problem. I didn’t feel particularly enlightened, but maybe it’s a slow growing kind of thing. My two friends also succeeded, much to the entertainment of the other visitors. The last thing that happened at the temple was my good karma for the day: because the temple is constantly being restored, visitors can donate a roof tile for ￥1000. What piqued my interest was the ability to write your name, home country, and a wish on the tile. Of course, my tile read “Dorothy & Belmont Group, 5/21/2011, Peace & Love foREVer.” I love that a piece of me will be on this historic temple for years to come. (The reason forever is styled that way is because the drummer for a band I love very much passed a way two years ago, his stage name was The Rev and fans believe that his legacy will stay with us foREVer.)