Deer and people outside Todai-ji Temple
We miss green spaces. It's no surprise that we feel the population of Japan wherever we go, considering that the Japanese have crammed nearly half the population of the United States into a country the size of Montana.
Bride at Kasuga Shrine
The Japanese excel at creating beauty in tiny ornate gardens with bonsai trees and rushing miniature waterfalls but the cities and towns of Honshu island are too packed with people, electrical wires, and apartment complexes to make room for grassy expanses. At times, when our trains rush across the "countryside" of Japan, I wonder if the cities and suburbs ever stop, if the tendrils of humanity ever fade into the magnitude of nature.
Scenes from the Nara parks
Nara was a relief. The ancient emperors built this capital city of the Tang Dynasty around huge parks, home to wandering deer, believed to protect the city and country. Today, elderly women paint scenes of temples and moss in the gardens, brides are photographed beneath red awnings, and the free roaming deer beg for shika sembei, cookies baked for the deer, from the eager tourists.
Patrick with the deer
They nuzzled against us, softly butting their heads against our arms when we did not feed them enough. They let us scratch their prickly chins and gently pet their fuzzy antlers.
Bronze Buddha at Todai-ji Temple
And, perhaps, we are becoming jaded because we should have been more impressed by Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden building in the world that houses the largest bronze Buddha in the world.
Deer being stalked by paparazzi (of sorts)
Instead, we walked through the building quickly and went back into the gardens, searching for more deer to feed.