aNewDomain — If travel is supposed to teach you new things and open your eyes, my recent adventures in Japan were a rousing success.
My lessons about Japanese cuisine began almost immediately.
I wanted to eat a Japanese breakfast so our fabulous English-speaking tour guide, Izumi Satoi, helped me select dishes.
I thought I should begin with sushi, but I didn’t realize you don’t always eat what is wrapped around the sushi. I bit into a persimmon leaf wrapper and I’m thinking, How do I tell her the fish tastes wonderful but this leaf tastes awful? So I covered my mouth while trying to swallow and whispered, “Am I supposed to eat the leaf?”
“No!” Izumi said. “It’s wrapped in the leaf to preserve it. You only eat what’s inside.” Lesson learned.
Deer, deer everywhere
I had heard Nara Park was filled with deer living around various temples and shrines. But I’m used to barely glimpsing deer.
Never had I seen so many.
As we approached the first temple, I only saw a few deer and they seemed more timid, like western deer. Yes, the photographic evidence shows I stalked a few, anxious to make friends.
Since June is the beginning of the rainy season in Japan, it began drizzling and we were glad we had carried umbrellas. (Perhaps my umbrella was the turn-off?)
But the rain let up as we headed toward Nara’s grandest shrine with the world’s largest Buddha.
By the time we had walked through some of the town to reach the Todai-ji Temple with its Daibutsuden Hall that houses the Great Buddha, deer seemed oblivious to our group. They were chilling on lawns and were only interested in us if we had food.
I was surprised that the Great Buddha at Todai-ji Temple is actually adorned with the beatific face of many other Buddhas. He is protected by fierce-looking warrior statues. And he is the largest Buddha statue in the world. But on a rainy day, it is challenging to take a selfie with him.
I was sorry it was a rainy day because sunshine would have helped me snap better pictures. Each little ornament on his adorned head is supposed to be the size of a baseball.
Deer, deer, everywhere II
After we left the Todai-ji Temple, Izumi gave us crackers to feed the deer. Suddenly they were swarming like hungry bees.
Never before have I been swarmed by deer, but I would gladly do it again. Next time, I’ll be keeping a better eye on my backside because a few deer tried to nibble my ample rump.
All images: Terry Gardner.