This is how I initially tried to sell the city of Nara to Jared:
“It was the first permanent capital of Japan and one of the temples is home to the world’s largest seated indoor Buddha. Or something like that. Plus, it’s only 30 minutes away from Osaka.”
This is why I really wanted to go to Nara:
There are 1200 miniature deer that roam freely in the parks, and you can feed them by hand if you wish. Plus, that Buddha sounded kind of interesting, I guess.
When I travel, I am primarily motivated by animals and food. There’s other stuff, too, of course, but those two things never fail to light a fire under my feet.
“I’m going to laugh when you don’t see a single deer,” Jared said, as we walked up from the train station.
Within minutes, I was vindicated.
“Deer,” I shouted.
“Quick, take a picture of me and the deer.” I slowly sidled up to the deer, not wanting to alarm it. They are wild animals, you know.
As it was, the deer hardly noticed me.
But it was a good thing I took precautions, because we soon came across a warning sign that outlined precisely how dangerous these Bambis could be. Take note: when being kicked by a deer, assume the fetal position.
After the initial antler-fueled excitement, we set off to see what else Nara had to offer. Almost immediately, we found a botanical garden, free for foreigners ONLY.
It was lovely (at least if you were a privileged foreigner), covered in moss and sprinkled with peaceful trees.
But then, when crossing a moss-covered stone – disaster struck.
I flashed back to the moment when, while packing, I decided to leave my Havianas at home and travel with only one pair of shoes.
Massive, massive fail.
For a while, I shuffled around on one sandal, walking on the painted lines to avoid melting my flesh on the tarmac of the roads.
I was momentarily distracted by things like this:
But eventually Jared got tired of me limping and shuffling, yet denying his offers of help, so he insisted that I take his thongs.
Our journey continued. Along the way, we discovered that Giant Buddha was undergoing a facelift, and was not available to the public. This was actually a relief, as I felt more of an obligation than a desire to pay the entry fee to his temple. Instead, we approached the gate and I took a photo through the slats.
Anyway, I didn’t feel like we missed anything because after I took the photo I turned and saw THIS, the guardian of the gate:
I feel like we’re one of the few people who actually noticed it was there, because most everyone else was preoccupied by the deer.
Like this guy, for example, who actually tapped the deer on the hindquarters. I don’t know what kind of result he was expecting, but what he got was a lesson in how fast deer can run (fast).
There were plenty of other things to take pictures of besides deer, so I did that, too.
Just when I was really getting going with my photographs of Japanese Cultural Artifacts (and roller coasters), I saw it.
If you took a toothless old man, punched him in the eye, and turned him into a deer, this is what you’d have:
Right across from that mafia boss of the deer world were what I assume to be his posse, crowding around a deer food stand and pretty much demanding that we buy them some biscuits.
Which we didn’t. It was high time for me to resolve the issue of the thongs, and to eat lunch.
If you’re going to blow out your flip flop, try not to do it anywhere in Asia, especially if you’re a female of above-average foot size.
In Korea, women’s shoe sizes stop at 250mm, which is the equivalent of a US size 8. As a woman with a size-10 foot (it’s proportional to my height! I swear!), I don’t buy shoes in Korea. Japan isn’t hugely different, but luckily, there was a Daiso (think: Dollar Store) where I found a pair of unisex shower flip-flops.
Two days later, I had run them to the ground and had to hunt for another pair. In Kyoto, I found some excellent ones with alpacas on them.
But I digress.
The point is, we were both shod, fed, and had just about reached our fill of deer for the day, so Jared and I returned to the train station for our trip back to Osaka.
That’s where we discovered that we may have satisfied our deer quota, but our contact with giant plastic antlered baby-men had been seriously deficient.
And that reminded me of one of my favorite Jack Handy quotes from college, which I will leave you with today.
“Most people don’t realize that large pieces of coral, which have been painted brown and attached to the skull by common wood screws, can make a child look like a deer.”
Well what do you know? It’s true.