Japan day 12

01/02/2024

Today I was tired, so it was difficult to get up, but I wanted to take part in as much as possible, so I tried to take part in most of the things we were offered to take part in.

The start of the day was to take the underground to Nara Park, where there is also a temple. Here it starts with a focus on the deer, which are tame here. The deer are free to go where they want, but mostly lie down in the shade in the park itself, as it is incredibly hot. They also cross the road if they wish and the funny thing is that they use the pedestrian crossing.

A bit about Nara Park:

Nara Park is a huge park at the foot of Mt. Wakakusa full of very playful and friendly deer. The natural surroundings include temples in pristine forest and a lake full of turtles and carp. The temples and shrines of Nara are much older than the often rebuilt buildings of Kyoto, and much more unique. Read more about this here: https://www.japan.travel/en/destinations/kansai/nara/nara-park-and-around/ 

We looked around Nara Park a bit then, here there were buildings, statues and temples.

The temple here is called Todaiji Temple, here you had to pay to enter. A little about this temple: 

The great Buddha statue designated as a national treasure and the world's largest wooden structure Todaiji Temple was originally founded in the Nara period (710-784), when the city of Nara, now popular with tourists, originally served as the capital of Japan. It has been designated as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara by the UNESCO World Heritage Convention along with other culturally and historically significant objects throughout the city. You can read more about this here: https://japan.travel/en/spot/1009/

With a wish for happiness for all, it took a total of approximately 2.6 million people to come together and create the large Buddha statue that now sits in Todaiji Temple's Daibutsu-den, the Great Buddha Hall. The statue itself is referred to as "Daibutsu" in Japanese, with "dai" meaning giant and "butsu" meaning Buddha, but it is modeled after the Vairocana Buddha. Apart from the Great Buddha, Todaiji Temple is home to a number of national treasures and cultural assets, and thus the temple itself was registered as a historical monument of ancient Nara by the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in 1998.

Serene Park with amazing temples.

Then we went to Koyasan, in the heart of the mountains. Koyasan is a lovely little temple town. Here we got the chance to experience real temple life, as we were going to sleep there, at Daimyoo-In temple.

Daimyoo - In Temple

Here we were to sleep on twin tatiami mats. But unlike the temple we slept in earlier, there were two and three sharing a room instead of 9. Here I ended up with my mostly permanent roommate on the trip, Samantha, nice. Here were the thinnest mattresses we had slept on so far on the trip, there was also an "onsen" inside the temple, where you could shower and bathe if you wanted to. There was a separate one for men and a separate one for women, same with toilet. You can find where this is by searching for DAMYOOIN TEMPLE

Okunoin Cemetery: 

The largest cemetery in Japan with trees over 500 years old. There are also temples and shrines here.

Okunoin (奥の院) is the site of the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi (also known as Kukai), the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most revered figures in Japan's religious history. Rather than having died, Kobo Daishi is believed to be resting in eternal meditation as he awaits Miroku Nyorai (Maihreya), the Buddha of the Future, providing relief to those who pray for salvation in the meantime. Okunoin is one of the holiest places in Japan and a popular pilgrimage destination.

The Ichinohashi Bridge (First Bridge) marks the traditional entrance to Okunoin, and visitors should bow to show respect to Kobo Daishi before crossing it. Over the bridge begins Okunoin's cemetery, the largest in Japan, with over 200,000 tombstones lining the nearly two-kilometer approach to Kobo Daishi's mausoleum. Many people, including prominent monks and feudal lords, have wished to be close to Kobo Daishi in death to receive salvation over the centuries. Read more about this here: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4901.html 

Then we went back to the temple.


The monks prepared a vegetarian dinner for us which consisted of the five tastes, umami, sour, sweet, salty and bitter. It was quite special, and exciting to see and taste. The dish that looks like delicious caramel pudding is tofu in soy sauce, not so good but it was exciting to taste the food the monks in the temple actually eat. You can see the food in the pictures below here. I tasted everything, but it wasn't quite to my liking, but the melon was really good. There is little fruit for sale in Japan, so that is probably why it tasted extra good. Picky, hehe. It is very exciting that you can cook using all five senses of taste. The two trays you see below are one or two trays per person, so there was plenty of food and green tea to drink. There were also fried vegetables. Inside the green plant leaf you could open and eat something rubbery, it tasted just fine. There was powder on the rice that tasted like tea powder, the kind you find in tea bags. Unique and special, none of the buns tasted like they looked. Either it tasted very sweet, very bitter, etc. all the taste senses were greatly enhanced. You can browse through the pictures below here.

All in all, a tiring but nice day, as we had to take some means of transport together with all our luggage. Here it paid off to have light luggage, yes it was heavy but went well. We learned how the monks ate, slept and prayed. We got to see what an onsen might look like, we got to see the cemetery, with temples and everything that went with it. We also got to see and feed deer in Nara Park. We also have deer at home in Norway that have been in our garden, but these deer in Japan were tame and it was fun and exciting to see that they bowed before accepting the food. So all in all a tiring, good, but educational day.