I woke up a few times during the night, slightly cold, and it was even colder outside when I went to the bathroom early in the morning. I was hoping that maybe the heat had finished with that last storm. Wrong, still really hot again this morning.
We’d stayed at a michi-no-eki not far from central Nara, but we’d read that to see all that we wanted to see in Nara would take more than a single day, assuming that Nara was something worth seeing properly we decided to see a little today, and see more after the weekend. The michi-no-eki wasn’t far from one of the main attractions of Nara, Houryu-ji, a 1300 year-old wooden temple (the oldest wooden structure in the world, apparently).
We’ve learnt that parking at any attraction is expensive in a car, but free on a bike, so after seeing that it was only about 5km away, we left the car at the michi-no-eki and went on bike. Although it was only 5km, it took in excess of 15 minutes due to the traffic (coming back was even worse).
I’d already read in Lonely Planet that entrance was going to be ¥1000, which I think is a little expensive and nearly put me off going (and Risa had already been
before on a high school excursion, so must have been worse for her).
At first it was nice, wide open spaces with ancient wooden buildings… and then the we started to notice the elementary school students… and they just didn’t stop coming. Hundreds of them, honestly, hundreds. And, it wasn’t just elementary school kids, there were students of all ages coming, as well as giant tour groups. We were in a (rushing) swarm of tourists, quickly walking their way through the sights.
To be brutally honest, I kinda felt like I’d wasted a little of my time/money coming here. While I appreciate it technically for surviving not only 1300 years of natural disasters, but also 1300 years of human conflicts. It’s just aesthetically it was … bland, and I’ve felt the same way about most temples after seeing the amazing temples in Nikko. It wasn’t just the design/colours, but it was also the surroundings. Nikko is in the mountains, surrounded by giant/ancient pine trees, Horyu-ji is surrounded by houses/roads/souvenir shops. Just being in the grounds in Nikko feels amazing, I can’t say the same about today.
Inside the buildings were some equally old wooden/clay/bronze Buddhas that were in amazing condition all things considered, though it was hard to appreciate with a constant stream of tourists pushing through to see it all on their strict timelines.
We walked about the grounds for a while, but it was bare gravel/paving on a blazingly hot day. No respite from the Sun, and we’d just decided we’d had enough.
Before leaving, Risa had a look at some of the restaurants/souvenir shops that lined the main street. She found something that was a local speciality, kuzukiri, made from a plant called kuzu. It was basically a flavourless, gelatinous substance that had been cut into thin/wide noodle shapes. You then dip these cold noodles into a burnt sugary sauce and enjoy. It was pretty good/refreshing. I’d recommend it.
We went for a quick ride around the area on the bike, having a look at another few smaller temples, as well as the small alleys (and their buildings) before heading back to get the Delica and head for Osaka. It was mid-afternoon, and I wanted to get to tonight’s michi-no-eki nice and early, as I had a feeling that it was going to be busy with the big festival this weekend. I’m glad that we left when we did, because even though it wasn’t far in distance, the roads were so slow. It felt like we were barely moving.
As we were driving, I noticed a strange tower, which was in the direction that we were heading. It kept getting bigger and weirder. It reminded me of some of the Gaudi buildings in Barcelona, something that some of the locals are sure to consider an eye-sore. We were quite near, so we tried to drive up to investigate it. Took a few (failed) attempts to get to it, but Risa did a little research and found out that it was built by a semi-religious group called ‘Perfect Liberty’ to remember all the people, from all races/religions who have died in war. She also found out that only the bottom two levels are open to public. We were happy enough with the view that we got, and left.
We arrived at tonight’s michi-no-eki and it was no more busy than normal. My paranoia was un-founded. We were hot, sweaty, sticky and in need of a bath. But, there was nothing even remotely in the area. Since we didn’t have a choice, we had to make the 20 minute drive to have a ¥410 sento. If you wanted to use the onsen you had to pay an extra ¥290. To check that you weren’t in the wrong area, they made us wear a pink wrist-band. I thought it would be clever to rip it off so I could use the outdoor onsen, but luckily I didn’t as you have to hand a key back in (and then they cut the band off your wrist). It was a lot of effort, but feels damn good to be clean.
法隆寺が道の駅からそう遠くない所にあったので、スクターで法隆寺を目指す。 ここへ来たのは、高２の秋かぁ、、、もうだいぶ昔のような気がするけど、まだ１０年までは経ってないんだ。 色々な記憶がよみがえる。
法隆寺境内をくまなく観察し、外にでるとくずきり屋などのお店が建ち並ぶ。ロス君は、まだ食べた事がないのでトライしてみることに。 私も久々のくずきり。 正直ちょっとくろみつがくどすぎて途中で飽きてきた。ロスも同じだったみたい。 けど、ふだんあんまり本物のくずを食べる事はないし、うれしかった。
少し歩くも残念ながら入り口は、かなり遠くにあるらしい。存在が気になり過ぎてi-phoneで調べてみると、どうやらこれは、あの甲子園常連校で有名なＰＬ学園のＰＬ教（パーフェクトリバティー教）のものらしい。 これは、国、人種すべてを超越して世界中の戦争戦没者の為の平和を願う“大平和祈願塔”（実は、もっと長い正式名書があるらしいが忘れた） なるほど〜。ガイドブックには載ってない意外な名所かもね。