Enlightenment in Nara
While planning a trip to Japan you definitely hear about Nara. Japans ancient capital is famous for it’s old temples and shrines. Located between Kyoto and Osaka it’s the perfect location for a day trip. Kyoto and Nara are connected by the JR Nara Line, if you look outside the window you can see the Heijōkyū Palace.
Nara Park is reachable from Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station by foot and reminds a bit on Miyajima island, because there’re many dears
But let’s talk about Shrines and Temples first. Those are easy distinguishable, entering a shrine’s area you always pass a torii which marks the entrance of a god’s terrain. Shrines can be tiny but they always have a torii, which often is red. There no special meaning in the colour, but the colour actually prevents insects. Next to a shrine’s entrance wells can be found. Those are used to clean hands and month before entering the shrine.
Temple’s areas are also entered by a gate, but this looks much different and a similar style like the other buildings. A temple’s centre is the sanctuary hall.
A highlight and Must See in Nara is Todai Tempel (see in picture on the top) from the 8th century. It’s often called Todai-ji Temple, but “Ji” already means temple. It’s sanctuary is Japan’s biggest Indoor Buddha and it belongs to Unesco Heritage. There is a hole in one of the pillars and it is said that you gain enlightenment passing through it. Most of the people are children, but I gained some enlightenment, too.
Many maps can be found in the Park, so you don’t have to worry too much about planning and you can’t get lost. Some buildings have an entrance fee but it’s already worth to see them from the outside in case you wanna save it. I would recommend Nigatsudo Hall of Todai Temple, which is a bit outside and free. You have a really nice view from it.
Or Kasuga-Taisha (see picture bellow), a shrine which is famous for it’s many lanterns. You can discover something in any corner, but unfortunately there aren’t many English signs, so you should inform yourself before or at least after the visit.
Of course there are also sights outside of Nara Park like the above mentioned Heijōkyū, but as temple’s and shrine’s may repeat and if you’ve just seen the Golden Temple and Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, you can skip that with no problem. Todai Temple’s entrance is with 800 Yen (2014) a little expensive but totally worth the money, because it’s so impressive even for Japanese people.