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KEEP IT SECRET to your dear ones.
It is a wonderful surprise for your partner and your kids to find a herd of deer roaming free in the city.
Deer in Nara city are absolutely cute and friendly*. They will greet you with a bow, just like Japanese people, and eat some biscuits from your hands. (They never steal biscuits from street venders!)
According to legend, the god of the Kasuga Taisha Shrine had arrived in ancient Nara riding a white deer. That is why deer still enjoy their protected status as envoys of the god.
After playing with deer and make everybody happy, it is time to show off your cultural knowledge about Nara.
Can you imagine The Silk Routes (also known as the Silk Roads) has terminated in Japan, after 2500km of journey from China and 9500km from Western world? Certainly it has.
When the ancient Nara was the imperial capital of Japan, during 710-784AD, the selected scholars and Buddhist monks risk their lives to cross the sea to China and brought back advanced knowledge and technologies of the Eurasian continent as well as Silk Route treasures.
They had brought back Kanji (Chinese characters), musical instruments, costumes and valuable cultural assets from China.
Buddhism was introduced by Korean, which had shaped the religion in Japan.
Cut-glass bowls, cups and pitchers from Persia, cups of Indian rhinoceros horn, inlaid with mother-of-pearl from the South Seas.
Lapis lazuli from Turkey and the knowledge of architecture came from Greece and the Roman Empire.
Most of Silk Routes treasures survived over 1300years had been stored in a treasure house of Totaiji Temple, so called Shosoin, but now they are in the Nara National Museum** http://www.narahaku.go.jp/
The main building of Totaiji Temple is known as the largest wooden building in the world and it is worldly famous for its 16.21 meter-high statue of Buddha, so called the Great Buddha. http://www.pref.nara.jp/english/
Horyuji Temple is located on the outskirts of Nara and it is the world's oldest wooden structure (established in 607AD) still in existence. Although it is built in wood, ancient Greek Style structure is applied in the columns (Entasis), so that you can see a little piece of the Parthenon. http://www.horyuji.or.jp/
Kofukuji Temple also cannot be missed, it is the temple with its five-storied pagoda facing the beautiful pond called Sarusawa-no-ike.
Nara is less than 1 hour away from Kyoto & Osaka by Train or by Bus.
Nara will make your day.
From Kyoto
By train: Kintetsu line for Kintetsu Nara station is the cheapest &fastest, takes 45min
From Osaka
By train: Take JR Yamatoji line Yamatoji Rapid at Tennoji station for JR Nara station or, Kintetsu line at Nanba for Kintetsu Nara station. Around 1 hour.
*They are cute, but be careful with your hands! Famous deer spots: the Nara park (Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Totaiji Temple, Nara National Museum are all in the Nara Park)  
**Remember, the treasures are not always open to public for protection purposes, except for Annual Shosoin Exhibition in autumn at Nara National Museum. http://www.narahaku.go.jp/
© 2009 Yumiko Kato
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