May 21: Kyoto: Nara, Todai-ji , Kasuga
We started the day with a visit to Sanjusangendo (The wandering Stray Cat) Temple containing 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, started in the 13th century. We took off our shoes, and were forbidden to take pictures. Somebody obviously has , however: http://www.flickr.com/photos/straycat/114530993/in/photostream/ Information about its history can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanjūsangen-dō My disappointment was not getting my own shots, but you can have an idea of the place from the wikipedia piece.
Next stop was Nara, the ancient capital of Japan; ancient here means early eighth century. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nara,_Nara After lunch, we toured the Todai-ji Temple http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tōdai-ji to see the great Buddha statue sitting in grand style at fifty-three feet tall. And, of course, to take pictures. I’ll have to spend some time in the next couple of days discussing religion in Japan.
Finally, before going back to Kyoto, we explored Kasuga Grand Shrine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasuga-taisha Walking to the shrine, one is impressed by the number and familiarity of the deer which are thought to be sacred messengers, and thus freely roam the site.
Another afternoon at leisure, this time to rest. Day 6 has been more taxing. Today we are instructed to pack an overnight bag to take along to our next hotel, Kagaya Onsen in Kanazawa. This is a hot springs hotel offering gender specific hot communal mineral baths and a ryokan-style (traditional Japanese) hotel. Birthday suits only. More tomorrow.