dinsdag 3 november 2009

Tuesday November 3, UNESCO sites! (Nara, Horyuji)

9 C Blue sky, later clouded and still chilly with 14C orso.
We have seen so many UNESCO selected treasures of Japan as part of the World Heritage, today we even go to two major important sites. Nara with the tallest wooden building and a Budha of 16 meters and Horyuji, with the oldest surviving wooden structures in the world and the first Buddhist structures of the year 670.
After a small 1 hour train ride we arrive at Nara. A very friendly and informative lady gives us a free map and plenty of information to have a 3-5 hours walk in the area. Its about 20 minutes walk to the first sightseeing spot just outside the center of the little town Nara. A large 5-story and a 3-story Pagoda next to the Kofukuji-temple from the 14th century. Surprising enough more a pentagon shape than a square building. Near the Nara museum its enormously crowded. We read about special treasures being showed in the museum, but apparently we were not the only ones knowing this. We skip the enormously large cues and go to the Nandaimon Gate(from the year 1203) towards the Todaiji Temple (500Yen fee). This is the largest wooden structure in the world, and indeed, its huge! The Buddha inside building is more than 16 meters high! All people here look like dwarfs compared with these large structures. Walking between all the deer (there are many of them here and have a special purpose to keep the gods in a good mood) we pass the enormous large “Great Bell”. The Nigatsu-do Hall we climb the stairs, with it reaching the highest point where you can enjoy the view over the sites and Nara. We walk towards the other important site in Japan, the Kasuga Grand Shrine, with the largest (3000) stone lanterns. And these lanterns are bigger than a human, so 3000 of them is quite an impressive sight. It all takes about 4-5 hours to see and walk all of this. We walk back to the station to try to be in time for the next important site in Japan, Horyuji Temple.
The 3th station we get out the train and an unmanned information spot in the station has some free maps. On the map is a pink path marked towards the Temples, indicating its 20 minutes walk. Next to the counter is a sign, stating the temples close at 17:00. Our books indicated an earlier time, so we are lucky. Later at the temple we notice we are even more lucky today, as these closing times are until November 3(today). From November 4th they close earlier. Lucky us. The walk is not complex, nor hard so we arrive within the 20 minutes. The fee is 1000 per person, but you get 3 tickets to visit the different sites (Saiin Garan, Daihozoin and Toin Garan). The contain the world's oldest wooden surviving (earthquakes, fires etc) structures on earth. Together with other cultural treasures convey images of Japan from over 1300 years ago. Therefor this group of architectural monuments are the first of any kind in Japan selected by UNESCO as part of World Heritage. The structures are indeed in excellent shape and great to watch. The cold weather is now showing some sunlight, so this gives great light for the photographs. Inside are great looking Buddhas, although not as big as Nara, they are big. There is a nice garden and temples with very old treasures, although sometimes very dark and hard to see. The museum (rather new building from 1998) has some very old and great artifacts, even from the 6th, 7th centuries. Just before they close and before darkness sets in, we complete the trip on this impressive site.
We go back to the train and on the way back we see a Japanese restaurant where we order some nice dinners with rice, dumplings, noodles, fried beef and fried shrimps. At the way back we pass a large supermarket where we find ourselves buys very delicious chocolate, filled with cream and cooled deserts. A long but very impressive day ends at our home, err.. hotel again.

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