Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Buddha is enjoying cheery blossoms.

Great Buddha in Todaiji Temple is now enjoying cherry blossoms. There are cherry trees planted around the lawn in front of the Great Buddha Hall. Visit Nara in spring and enjoy the picturesque view of the Great Buddha Hall over blooming cherry trees.

The picture above is the Middle Gate in front of the Great Buddha Hall. You can see a little bit of the bloom from outside of the gate, too.


Cherry blossom is blooming!

This is a picture of a shrine known for its 100 years old cherry tree. During a cherry blossom season, we try to make a small detour during our Daily Standard Nara Park and Daily Morning Todaiji tour to incorporate a seasonal touch to our tours. The shrine in the picture is one of our favourite spots for cherry blossom viewing - you'll know where it is during our tour!

(The picture is taken on March 27)


Friday, March 19, 2010

How Does JR Nara Station Look Like Now?

Pictures from JR Nara Station. As the station is under renovation, some of the pictures may be outdated in the near future.
(Click the pictures to enlarge.)

New ticket gates. This is the only ticket gates location now. If you need to go to a washroom, go to the one inside the station. There is a public washroom outside the station too, but is not as nice as the one inside.

On your right side is ticket machines and a ticket office.

On your left side you can find TIC (one with red sign, blue one is a office for a local bus company).

Walk straight (but remember to check our tours first!) to go to stairs leading to East Gate.
Head to East Gate for sightseeing spots such as Todaiji Temple and Nara Park. Bus stops to these sightseeing spots are also on East Gate side.

At the foot of the stairs, lockers are located. The Japanese sign ”コインロッカー” means lockers.

By the way, if reading signs and explanations or figuring out where abouts sounds tiresome, just remember there is a walking tour you can join. Starting from JR Nara station or picking you up at your requested place, you can have a relaxing enjoyable day with a Nara Walk guide!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

JR Nara Station: New Ticket Gates Location

JR Nara Station opened its new ticket gates on March 13. There used to be central ticket gates and western ticket gates, but now there is only one location by the second floor.

See the Nara Station map below. (Click to enlarge. Lockers, WC, TIC etc. also indicated.)

As ticket gates moved, we also moved our meeting point for our daily tours - Daily Nara Park Standard Tour & Daily Morning Todaiji. As indicated in the map above, we will be waiting for you near TIC and/or JR ticket office. (We are still trying to figure out where would be a best meeting place near new ticket gates. We might also be by East Gate. )

TIC is on the same floor as the ticket gates. Look for red sign, you will find TIC. Look for a white flag, you will find us!


Be A World Champion in Nara!!

We've seen the great games of the Olympics and the Paralympics, and now it's your turn to be a gold medalist. How? Just come to Nara, and throw a deer cracker!

On March 20, 18th annual Deer Cracker Throwing Contest will be held in Wakakusa-yama Hill, Nara. As this is the unique event held only in Nara, the winner of this contest is a world champion! The winner will be awarded with a special prize - a very unique trophy - too special some of you might not like to have it! (Hint: it's something related to deer.) Come and find it out what it is.

Date: March 20, 2010
*held next day if weather is bad

Entry for the contest:
Registration starts from 9:30~
*only first 1000 people can enter
The game begins 10:00, ends 15:00

Fee: 300yen

Place: Wakakusa-yama Hill

Wakakusayama is a hill between Todaiji Temple and Kasuga Grand Shrine. We will pass by the contest if you take our Standard Nara Park Tour.

A smaller Deer Cracker Throwing event will be held on March 21 & 22, too. Same place, from 13:00~, for first 500 people who registered, entry fee 300 yen & 150 yen to enter Wakakusayama Hill.

The "world" record is 59.20m by a 16 years old boy from Hiroshima. Can you beat him?


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pied Piper in Nara ?

A staff member of Nara Deer Protection is playing Beethoven's Symphony No.6 "Pastorale" on horn at a gently rolling field in Kasuga Grand Shrine. Do Nara deer love Beethoven's symphony? No, the deer are being drawn by something else.

During the winter season, there is no grass and less natural food. He is blowing a horn to let the deer know that breakfast is ready. More than one hundred deer are running to the horn from every direction to get acorns.

No more acorns, so the deer start going home.

This "Gathering of the Deer" is a very popular tourist attraction in winter.
Don't miss this magnificent sight of gathering of the deer when you visit Nara next winter!


Friday, March 5, 2010

Japanese Apricot blossoms in Nara Park

Ume(Japanese apricot) are still in full bloom in the Nara Park. Or it is passing the best time to view Ume blossoms.

You can enjoy beautiful Ume blossoms around here.

As Ume are the first trees of the year to bloom, they are considered as the first sign of the end of winter. Also Ume are loved as one of three lucky trees along with pine trees and bamboo trees.

After Ume blossoms are over, soon news people will start reporting on the cherry blossom front.


cUte InK BrUsh ArT

Ink and Brush - Nara is known for making high quality sumi ink and brushes. When I think of sumi ink or brushes, I usually think of serious calligraphy or sumi-e paintings. But there are cute ones too...

In a small gallery located within a Japanese traditional snack shop Zeitaku Mame Honpo(ぜいたく豆本舗), an exhibition is held. What you can find are arts and crafts of cozy taste calligraphy and cute paintings with traditional Japanese motifs.

For example, a cat with both hands up mean "Come fortune, Come customers."
The calligraphy above them very well says "Welcome" (yokoso in Japanese)!

You can also find hand inscribed stamps. All the exhibits are for sale. Enjoy art, find out about Japanese tradition or reward yourself with unique souvenir.

This particular exhibition is only for three days. From March 5, 2010 ~ March 7, 2010 (11:00am~5:00pm). Held by Muujyu(夢有樹 web site in Jpn only).

Zeitaku Mame Honpo, where the gallery is, is located on the Sanjo Street across a burger shop, Mos Burger. This gallery hosts a crafts exhibition through out the year. The duration is usually only a few days long. If you like crafts, this could be the place to meet the local artists.

Nara Walk welcomes customers~


Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Hina Doll Festival was held on March 3rd.

On March 3rd, families with daughters celebrate the Hina Doll Festival praying their good health and happiness. Parents display a set of Hina dolls dressed in gorgeous traditional court costumes on a tiered stand. The dolls represent Emperor, Empress, court ladies, two ministers and court musicians.

These Emperor and Empress are about 130 years old.

Look at her beautiful crown and elaborately embroidered kimono dresses.

Even they have a court lady who takes care of their pet, a Chinese dog.

As soon as the Hina Doll Festival is over, parents stow the set of dolls away in a closet. Because there is a superstition that if the parents delay to do so, the chances of their daughters’ marriage also will be delayed.

I had a beautiful set of Hina dolls which my parents bought for me when I was born. But during the move, my Empress was accidentally broken. I thought they finished their rolls and took them to a temple. After a memorial service, they burnt my dolls and buried dolls’ ashes beneath a stone monument. Hina dolls are so special that we don’t treat them as things.
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