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Today's blog post takes us, on a daytrip from Kyoto, to Nara, capital of Japan in the eighth century, and today famous for (amongst other things) the deer roaming Nara Park. Wikipedia tells me that "according to the legendary history of Kasuga Shrine, the god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō; since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country."

Today, the Narans make their money selling crackers for tourists to feed to the deer:

[8.2.andrea feeding deer]

Nara Park also contains the Todaiji temple, which one approaches through an impressive gate:

[8.3.todaiji gate.jane]

Here's the temple itself:

[8.6.1.todaiji temple]

There were understandable restrictions on what one could do in the temples in the area:

[8.7.no deer crackers sign]

Photos were, however, allowed in what I think (if my notes aren't garbled) is the Eastern Golden Hall of the Kohfukuji temple:

[8.6.2.todaiji temple interior]

A close-up of the temple's daibutsu (giant Buddha):

[8.6.2.daibutsu]

I think the above is Yakushi Nyorai, the "Buddha Master of Medicine".

One thinks of Japan being a long way removed from ancient Greek culture, but actually, there's a direct link: No pictorial representations of the Buddha were made during the first few centuries of Buddhism; but after Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and reconquered the provinces of it which had been lost over the previous few centuries, including the western edge of India, the Greek fondness for statuary found its way into Buddhism, and the spread of Buddhism ultimately brought that to Japan.

The daibutsu was surrounded by statues of lots of other Buddhist deities:

[8.6.3]

Kokuuzo-Bosatsu (bosatsu is boddhisatva mangled into Japanese):

[8.6.3.kokuuzo-bosatsu]

Koumokuten, one of the Four Heavenly Kings, Indian warrior deities charged with protecting the four corners of the universe; in the Buddhist context, guardians of the faith that protect temples:

[8.6.3.koumokuten]

This statue, made from a single block of Japanese cypress, is thought to date from the ninth century.

Nyoirin Kannon, a boddhisatva known as the Goddess of Mercy:

[8.6.3.nyoirin kannon]

Decorative bronze butterflies:

[8.6.4.bronze butterflies]

This eighteenth-century wooden statue is of Binzuru, a disciple of the Buddha. The belief is that when a sick person rubs the part of the statue corresponding to their own ailment, they will be healed.

[8.6.5.binzuru]

The five-tiered pagoda. (We never found a single pagoda we could gain interior access to.)

[8.7.five tiered pagoda]

[Japan blog posts] [personal profile] lethargic_man's Japan blog posts

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Lethargic Man (anag.)

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