Foreground: candles glowing in glass holders. Background: silhouette of a tree. © 2011 Jordan Harper. All rights reserved.

Nara lights

Day 17 – 14 August 2010

Had a bit of a lie in (well, it was a Saturday) and headed straight to the train station as we planned to spend the day in nearby Nara (奈良市). A longer than expected train journey followed by a longer than expected walk in the midday sun from Nara train station to the enormous park on the east of the city left us a little hot and sweaty — we were very happy to find someone selling frozen slices of pineapple on the street.

First stop was Tōdai-ji, a Buddhist temple and the largest wooden building in the world. For all the skyscrapers we’d seen in Tokyo and Osaka, it was unquestionably the most impressive man-made structure I saw in Japan and one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Meeting up once again with our friends from Tokyo, we crossed the park and climbed a hill to the Shinto Kasuga-taisha shrine. As we climbed we passed thousands of small tumblers that were being laid out on the grass of the park and inside stone lanterns, containing nothing but a small quantity of water. After watching an amazing display of dancing in the shrine and making the descent back down the hill, we discovered the secret of the glasses. How do you solve the problem of lighting probably more than ten-thousand candles at roughly the same time? Easy: you sell candles to the gathered masses and get them to light and place them in the glasses for you. The resulting display is truly spectacular.

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