Sunday, June 1, 2014

Japan Golden Week - Nara & Ninja Village


Today, we first went to Nara, which is famous for its World's biggest bronze Buddha.  Before entering the temple compound, we have to pass by the Nara Park, where we were welcomed by the freely roaming Deers.

Nara Park - This beautiful lawn park extends 4km east to west and 2km north to south. Groups of deer, messengers of the gods, roam freely through the park. Its beautiful landscape with half-hidden views of temple and shrine rooftops enchants visitors throughout the seasons.

The entrance fee to Nara Temple is 500 yen.  Inside the temple, they provided English speaking guide which gives us free 30 minutes educational and historical background of the temple. 

Tōdai-ji (東大寺, Eastern Great Temple), is a Buddhist temple complex located in the city of Nara, Japan. Its Great Buddha Hall, houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese simply as Daibutsu (大仏). The temple also serves as the Japanese headquarters of the Kegon school of Buddhism. The temple is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site as "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara", together with seven other sites including temples, shrines and places in the city of Nara.

The Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsuden) has been rebuilt twice after fire. The current building was finished in 1709, and although immense—57 m long and 50 m wide—it is actually 30% smaller than its predecessor. Until 1998, it was the world's largest wooden building. It has been surpassed by modern structures, such as the Japanese baseball stadium 'Odate Jukai Dome', amongst others. 

The Great Buddha statue has been recast several times for various reasons, including earthquake damage. The current hands of the statue were made in the Momoyama Period (1568–1615), and the head was made in the Edo period (1615–1867).

The temple gives the following dimensions for the statue:

    Height: 14.98 m (49.1 ft)
    Face: 5.33 m (17.5 ft)
    Eyes: 1.02 m (3.3 ft)
    Nose: 0.5 m (1.6 ft)
    Ears: 2.54 m (8.3 ft)

The statue weighs 500 tonnes!

Behind the Daibutsu there is a pillar into which a smallish hole (allegedly the same size as the Great Buddha's nostril) has been created.

Legend has it that crawling through will lead to true enlightenment in the next life.

In the afternoon, we headed to  Iga Town, in Mie Prefecture,  aka "Ninja Village"

A short history about Iga Town:

In the early 18th century, shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune founded the oniwaban, an intelligence agency and secret service. Members of this office, the oniwabanshū ("garden keeper"), were agents involved in collecting information on daimyos and government officials.  The secretive nature of the oniwaban – along with the earlier tradition of using Iga and Kōga clan members as palace guards – have led some sources to define the oniwabanshū as "ninja". 

Ninja stars displayed in the Ninja Village museum,


Feet device worn by Ninja to be able to float on the rivers / moats, Floating Shoes! ,

Ninja house in Iga town, show some revolving walls, ceiling compartments, for easy scape route,

The Iga and Kōga clans have come to describe families living in the province of Iga and the adjacent region of Kōka (later written as Kōga), named after a village in what is now Shiga Prefecture. From these regions, villages devoted to the training of ninja first appeared.  The remoteness and inaccessibility of the surrounding mountains may have had a role in the ninja's secretive development.  

A distinction is to be made between the ninja from these areas, and commoners or samurai hired as spies or mercenaries. Unlike their counterparts, the Iga and Kōga clans produced professional ninja, specifically trained for their roles.

Arriving the town of Iga, we instantly notice the adorable children around wearing Ninja costumes:

We paid 1000 Yen to watch the Ninja show, and entrance to Ninja house and museum.

Since the Ninja family knows Mochan (our guide), they allowed us to stay after their first set of performance, so we enjoyed the second show for free! 

Photo session after the the show, everyone was so accommodating!

This family of ninjas have also performed their skills around the world, even in the White-house!

This ends our 9th day Japan Golden Week Highlight trip.  That night we went back to the home of Ohodo family.

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