Notes from Nara, Japan - Climbing through Daibutsuden's Nostril
After parting with our deer friends, we ambled on to Todai-Ji temple. For some reason (probably the collateral damage of days spent sweltering through the humidity of a Japanese summer) I didn't think that I'd find the temple special, after seeing so many I thought that I'd have a degree of temple numbness. Turns out I was very wrong, something about the inherent beauty of this massive sacred space looming ahead struck me immediately.
The undercurrent of serenity was palpable, despite the hundreds of visitors bustling through and the perspiration running down my back in rivulets. It washed away any grumpiness that I might have been carrying from the earlier deer bites and persistent humidity.
We wandered through the inner temple which is home to the 14.98 metre Daibutsu, Daibutsu's guardians (such as Komokuten pictured in the fourth picture below) and a special supporting post with a hole in the base referred to as Daibutsu's Nostril. Admiring the displays of the previous incarnations of Todai-ji; having been rebuilt twice after fire and suffering other natural disasters the temple is quite different from its original incarnation, poetically fitting for a buddhist temple, altered appearance through incarnations, yet soul still intact.
The circuit inside the temple led us to the line to pass through Daibutsu's Nostril. Crawling through the hole is encouraged as fitting all the way through is said to grant you enlightenment in your next life. Having only just claustrophobically squeezed through myself I'm going to have to tell you that enlightenment isn't for the broad or tall, one of the few times being tiny has been an advantage, possibly. Tyler passed on attempting to fit through which did the question unanswered, what happens if someone actually gets themselves wedged inside?
Unfortunately the photos of Eve and I exiting the nostril are blurred because of the super low light in the temple and my refusal to stop and pose because I just wanted to be out of the squishy space (see mild childhood induced claustrophobia), especially with so many people in front watching and behind waiting for their turn.
The serenity and relative coolness of the temple were another lovely part of our short stop in Nara, and as silly as it is it felt nice to be able to put a marker out for enlightenment next time around, knowing that for once being petite was an advantage. The Nara area is a great place to visit as a family for the day, especially if you need something with a little more calm in the bustle that is Japan.
Nara is approximately a one hour train ride from Kyoto or Osaka if you take the shinkansen (bullet train) from Osaka. Another reason to invest in Japan Rail pass if you're going to be exploring in Japan as a tourist.
Other things to do:
Todai-ji is in walking distance of visiting the Nara deer, who are in the nearby park and all the way up to the outer entrance of the temple. There are also several other temples in the area.
The pretty streets between the train station and the deer park are dotted with restaurants and souvenir stores, and in general Nara is a quiet beautiful place for a day trip while in Japan.