Nara in Japan is famous for its shrines and temples, among which is Todai-ji, a Buddhist temple. Nearby is Nara Park, where deer roam freely.
Local folklore considered deer in this area as sacred; today they are protected as national treasures.
(Deer in front of the Great South Gate of Todai-ji, itself a national treasure.)
They are friendly and don’t mind getting up close and personal.
They are not scared of humans — sometimes it’s actually the other way around when they get too “friendly” (asking to be fed).
They certainly know their way around, even crossing the street.
An interesting, if unusual, sight.
We’re a thousand miles from comfort, we have traveled land and sea
But as long as you are with me, there’s no place I’d rather be
I would wait forever, exalted in the scene
As long as I am with you, my heart continues to beat
We staked out on a mission to find our inner peace
Make it everlasting so nothing’s incomplete
It’s easy being with you, sacred simplicity
As long as we’re together, there’s no place I’d rather be
– Clean Bandit, “Rather Be”
Mount Rokko, near Kobe, Japan
I’d Rather Be…
Just outside Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine has been around as a place of worship for 1300 years.
It is best known for its row of tori gates, whose red color is said to have powers against “supernatural powers” and also indicates the bounty of the Inari god.
(This particular spot is featured in a scene in the film “Memoirs of a Geisha.”)
The row of torii gates developed as a custom 400 years ago as donations from businesses to express gratitude for a wish “that has come true or will come true”; there are now 10,000 torii gates within the shrine.
(Incidentally in the film, the young girl runs through the torii gates on the way to the temple to offer a coin in prayer. The scene was flashed back at the ending when her wish came true.)
One can of course follow the gates all the way to the top of the mountain, about a couple of hours walk though lush scenery.
A tour of Fushimi Inari won’t be complete without mentioning the white fox, said to represent Inari (god of harvest and business) who protects rice crops from the mice that eat them. A recognition of ecological balance even in the old days.
It’s a good day’s visit — to admire a cultural symbol that has weathered the centuries, or simply reconnect with nature and oneself — something of a treat in today’s fast-paced world.
(Or maybe one can simply offer a prayer of thanks for a wish that has come true or will come true.)
I like the interplay of light and shadow at the Bamboo Forest of Akashiyama, near Kyoto, Japan..
As one walks into the forest, the rustle of the leaves whispers in your ear.
It reminds me of a story about a man who wanted to quit and went to the forest to ask God for a reason not to.
The answer he got was right around him. God compared the fern — which blooms almost instantly and fills the forest with its bright leaves — to the bamboo, which for years after planting, had nothing to show. But He didn’t quit on the bamboo.
And on the fifth year the bamboo suddenly emerged from the ground and rose to the sky, growing several feet every week until it covered the forest with its canopy.
For years the bamboo was silently growing its root system, so it could support itself as it ascends to what it can become.
I sometimes look at these pictures to remind myself of the bamboo, and the light that shines though them, when shadows tend to overcome.
Lake Kawaguchiko, near Tokyo, Japan.
A torii is the boundary between the human world and the spirit world, normally at the entrance of a Shinto shrine.
The Great Torii at Miyajima Island , usually shown as if floating on the water at high tide, is an icon of Japan.
But at low tide, one can go up close and explore it.
Some people even place coins between the barnacles for good luck.
But I also like the way the Torii peeks above the roofs as seen on the way down from Mount Misen.
Either way, it’s definitely worth a visit when in Japan.
He sees two other windows
Oblivious to him
Each one a screen
Lives playing out
A sliver of reality
A slice of time
Will they look at him
Looking at them
Or the other windows on his train
Or when the train moves
At the city lights
And the stars in the lonely sky?
(Thoughts on a bullet train station in Kyoto.)