Sunday, July 15, 2007

Kyoto - Enjoying The Festival, Deer?

Pearl and I took a day trip to Nara, since the typhoon had gone by, and it was a beautiful day - I saw blue sky for the first time since Wisconsin!

It felt so nice to be on a train again. It felt a bit like going home, as sad as that sounds. Believe me, though, that Japan's trains are awesome. We watched all the storm damage go by, and then arrived in Nara. Since the festival was still going on, Nara was relatively empty, which is odd for a weekend. It's a very nice little city, and the majority of it is actually a park.

The highlight is this enormous temple that houses a huge statue of Buddha. I believe it is sixty feet tall. His nostril is large enough to fit through, and they had a hole behind him the same size as one of his nostrils, so you could experience crawling through Buddha's nose. We passed, since the line was pretty long.

On the way out of the temple, Pearl said to me - and I kid you not - "Now let's go find that giant Buddha. I wonder where it is." Needless to say, I laughed at her for days.

Another interesting part of Nara is its deer. Much like Miyajima, the deer in Nara are extremely tame. I pet tons of them, and there were a couple eating maps and bags they stole out of people's hands. It was so much fun to watch kids with deer cakes you could buy to feed the deer, running and screaming while a huge buck chased them down.

We returned to Kyoto that night for a much dryer repeat of the previous night. We thought last night was busy, but everyone showed up on this night due to the perfect weather, so the place was crazy. There were literally at least a million people there. That may seem like an exaggeration, but even the five- and six-lane streets were packed to the point where you were pressed shoulder-to-shoulder and front-to-back with everyone around you. It was just one slow shuffle, and you had to decide where to turn quickly, because it took quite a while to get over to the sidewalk. All the lines for food were insanely long - not to mention impossible to tell where they began and ended - but we managed to sample a large amount of different food. I have absolutely no idea what I ate, but it was unbelievably good.

Everyone had gotten dressed up in their finest kimonos, both men and women, so the people-watching was perfect. Two girls in front of us at one point held up their phone to take a picture of themselves, so I put my head above them and smiled into the camera. When they looked at the picture, they started laughing and blushing, showing it off to their two friends, who also started giggling. I was quite a big hit, I tell you.

Even better, near the end of the night, we happened to be outside a restaurant as six geishas were climbing into two cabs. Pearl snapped a picture of one in the back of the cab, but her camera was on night-vision setting, so for a few seconds before the flash, the poor geisha had a bright green light shining in her eyes. She doesn't look too thrilled in the picture, but it came out absolutely amazing. It really looks like a tabloid paparazzi photo, and it may as well have been one. Everyone crowded around them, snapping pictures like they were movie stars. It was the perfect ending to that crazy night.

At the bottom right, you can see one
geisha in the back of the cab; the other is
in the center with her back to me. You can
see her white neck. I didn't say I was
the one with the good picture.

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