Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hannah Comes to Town part 5


I should mention that Hannah and I managed to stay awake until 3:00 a.m. I didn’t include that in the Tuesday blog because 3:00 a.m. is no longer Tuesday. Let that preface everything you read and see in this post, because it hit us all in waves. Oh, Japan! Oh, we’re tired. Japan! Tired. And so on.

I had originally planned to take Hannah to Nara on Thursday. Wednesday was still a holiday and therefore would be packed with tourists. I had wanted Hannah to see the oldest capital when there weren’t so many people around. I also wanted for the deer to be impressed when we held crackers in their direction. Unlike Miyajima, Nara hold its deer sacred, which I guess means making them a tourist attraction. One can purchase a stack of deer crackers (which I’ve seen babies eat. DON’T GIVE THEM TO SMALL CHILDREN) and feed the deer as much as you want. However, after the deer harassment on Miyajima, Hannah and I changed our plans to escape the wrath of hungry woodland beasts.

Dara joined us this day for our tour of Nara. We took a train to Kyoto (400 yen) and grabbed breakfast and lunch at a deli in Kyoto station (846 yen for me, because my sandwich had Brie on it. Brie). Then I spent 147 yen on a coffee drink. Three a.m.

There are two lines that go to Nara, the Japan Railroad (JR) line and the Kintetsu line. The JR is faster, the Kintetsu is cheaper. We opted for cheaper. I had taken the JR last time with Liz, and we had missed two trains because we were too afraid to cram our bodies into the overstuffed trains. The Kintetsu was far less crowded and cost only 610 yen. Hannah, Dara and I all sat down, I ate my breakfast, and I think we might have done some sleeping (obviously, I don’t remember).

We arrived in Nara without a hitch. After exiting the station we headed to our right to find the park. The main attractions in Nara are mostly clustered on a giant park. What may or may not be the same park begins long before one ever reaches a site of historical significance. Sure there’s a museum, blah blah.

We entered the history part at the pagoda

which apparently houses something important, but I’m ninety percent sure that the pagodas of Japan are ninety-five percent decorative. We decided (I decided) that our picture story for the day would be twofold given that there was another model in the mix. The story for the day: Bored by History and Angry. The latter wasn’t hard, since we were all sleepy, especially Hannah (jetlag, remember?).

We also found the time to look fabulous as a trio.

We found deer not long after.

Neither Hannah nor this antler-less buck was impressed.

See, even the deer is bored.

The place was packed, as we had expected.
Still, the fat, well-fed deer were out for blood. Children cried and grown men and women fled. I’m not exaggerating.
That dude (?) literally ran away from the three does. I didn't blame him; they were all up in his grill, biting at stuff.

We decided to pause for an ice cream and kakigori break. Kakigori is the Japanese snow cone, and they usually allow the customer to put as much syrup on those suckers as he or she desires. The self-service snow cone. I wanted Hannah to experience the refreshing, slightly different snow cone, so I coughed up 600 yen for two large sizes. Hannah and I had many desires, and our desires were beautiful.

Can you see that rainbow in a cup. Can you?

Here’s Hannah out of character as we pass approach the guardian gate to Todaiji:

Todaiji is the biggest wooden building in the world, for those who’ve forgotten. Still, it’s a bit smaller than the original (earthquakes and fires and such. It has been rebuilt a couple of times).

I like to think he's offering a really enthusiastic high five.

These figures may be imposing to some, but Hannah is nonplussed. Dara sees his abs and raises him one fist.

This guard dog looks surprised. Guess he didn’t figure out that you have to catch people on their way into the temple.

Looking good, as always.

Ah, the leaves begin to change. But you know how we feel about that?

Hey, "gorgeous" scenery. Yeah, you. We're gonna sucker punch you in the leaves, but we'll yawn to prove just how easy it is.

Who’s better looking that an ancient temple?

Dang skippy.

It costs 500 yen to enter Todaiji itself. There’s a pretty massive courtyard that leads up to the massive building. I was sticking my hand through the outside gate to take the above picture.

I withdrew my hand.

We entered the temple and wandered around. I should note that we walked really, really slowly this whole day. Hannah claimed it was more tiring that a brisk pace, but I tend to disagree. Walking slowly means taking in more of the details. It also means finding opportunities to express our feelings through film.

We are too cool to care about history. Temple. Pfft. We will punch you right between those shiny horns, temple.
You think you're so zen.We will punch your zen in the face. And then we will take a nap.
I see your angry face, and raise you one empty fist. Oh, you have a scroll in your fist? Then I raise you biceps like arm potatoes.

I mentioned before ( I think) that in one of the pillars a hole has been cut. This hole is supposed to be the same size as the giant Buddha’s nostril, and wiggling through it results in good luck. Most of the good luck-booger wannabes are children and their fathers, or younger couples on a date (the girl takes the pictures, the guy goes through). Hannah and I decided to wiggle or wedge ourselves into that narrow opening on principle of I May Never Come Here Again. Hannah went first:

The trick for adults is to turn on one’s side so as not to get caught by the muffin top. I watched, learned, and followed.

On the approach.

Laugh it up, natives. Imma getting through.

Dara was taking pictures, and kept telling me to wait while she got a good shot. People were laughing out loud and I feigned deafness.

I always think of The King and I when I see this, and the Siamese court production of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Outside the temple sits a amazingly toothy, weathered statue of a monk in a shower cap. The idea is to touch whatever part of his body that also hurts on yours. Touch and be healed and creeped out.

Whatever, Getting A Perm Monk. I don't care about you.

After Todaiji we headed to the left (I don’t know which cordinal direction. South, probably).

I henceforth discovered parts of Nara I hadn’t known to exist. This bell tower, for example, was a new discovery.

A traditional temple/shrine bell is shaped like the church bells we know (without the flare at the bottom). However, there’s no tongue on the inside. Instead there is what looks like a battering ram hung near the pole. When the bell is rung the rope restraints are removed from the log. One or more people swing the log back, then forward to hit the bell. There are some bells and ringers so large that it takes seventeen monks to make the sound.

This bell looks like a two or three person job.

It does take two to shake a fist at a bell this size.

We stopped here for our lunch, mostly because there were no deer in sight. Lesson learned, Miyajima.

This picture took forever to set up properly.

After our repasts we stumbled upon this temple.

The one on the left.

Some people might be impressed. They might say, "Ooh, what a cool temple, what awesome details. Oh, wow, I'm such a fan of these cool details. Wow, I like fountains with dragons and stuff. Ooh."

Other people are just too cool for that.
The rest of us just don't know what we're doing.
This was really slow.
Really, really slow.
As in, "Come on already."
Wait, I started sliding again. Get there, get there.
We paid 130 yen for ice cream on the way to Kasuga Taisha shrine. Kasuga Taisha is famous for its stone lanterns, and was one of my favorite places when I visited last year with Liz. There are at least 1,000 lanterns leading to the shrine. We walked into the main entrance
and opted to keep our yen in our pockets. I think it would have been between 300 and 500 yen to go farther into the shrine, but after a while a shrine is a shrine. We continued.
You think you're so cool, lanterns.
By this time we were really tired. My fatigue made me a little slap-happy. I crawled through a hole in a tree (peer pressure), ran around like a crazy-face, leapt from short pole to short pole while Hannah played Rolf to my Leisle, and postulated that some of the stranger trees could be used as daybeds.

It was another 610yen on our sleepy way back from Nara. Then 400 back from Kyoto. Hannah and I opted to go straight home, though we did make another stop at Seiyu for what I wrote as, “1600 cookie groceries and such.” I’m not sure anymore what this means, but I blame my case of the sleepies. Maybe Hannah can clarify.

Again, it was a good day.


  1. Brilliant! Brilllyaaahhhhhnt! Funniest picture diary ever. Many good shots and all. I like the one with the brown and white lanterns hanging in a row. Arm potatoes - bwaaaahahahahahaha!

  2. You amaze me with the details you remember, especially since you were only recording money spent! Do you remember the old guy who took ages to reach Todaiji? I was so happy to see his family waiting with a wheelchair! Oh, cookie groceries: we bought chocolate bars and baking soda to make cookies. It was a good night.