We take the ferry to the magnificent island of Miyajima to visit the centuries-old Itsukushima Shrine. The World Heritage site is located along the virgin forest of Mt. Misen over the waters of Hiroshima Bay. As dusk falls, the tide recedes and hoards of people make their way towards the beautiful Torii in the Sea.
We decided to do something different this new year eve. We walked down to Todaiji at midnight to usher in the new year with the blessings of the great Daibutsu. For it is only during New Year eve that the upper doors, in front of the face of the Great Buddha, are opened so all can witness the eyes of the Daibutsu.
I used to go past the Heijo Palace every time we used to drop in at Osaka. It used to look so beautiful in the night from the train. We finally went to the palace grounds today, to capture its majestic view. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Heijo Palace used to be the emperor’s residence when Nara was the capital of Japan in the 8th century.
One cannot but feel tiny in front of Todaiji, home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha, housed in the colossal Daibutsuden Hall. Constructed in 752 AD as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples, it rose to become one of the most powerful temple in Japan, guarded by the fierce Sohei warrior monks.
We ride into the misty mountains of Mie, to visit Iga Ueno, the birthplace of Ninjas. At the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum, dedicated to the history of the shadow warriors, we discover the awesome escape routes, hidden doors, traps and fake hallways of a Ninja dwelling.
Weekend!! Mani is finally free from classes. We catch a train to Kyoto to visit some of the historical monuments of this ancient yet modern city.
I go back to explore Kasuga Taisha, shrine of a thousand lanterns, hidden away in the primeval forest of Kasugayama. Shinto shrines are generally destroyed and rebuilt every 20 years for purification purposes and this is the 57th re-incarnation of the 1700 year old Shrine.
I took the Nara Kotsu bus to explore the 7th century temple of Yakushi-ji in the suburbs of Nara. Known as the Temple of Medicine, Yakushi-ji is among Unesco’s list of “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara” World Heritage Site.
I go on a hike to Mt. Wakakusayama. I lay on the soft green grass at the summit and promise myself to come up again at dusk, one day to catch Nara with its lights.