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This is the archive for October 2017

Sunday, October 15, 2017

And finally, I am in Kyoto, the "Capital City".

Differently from Nara, this city was built to be useful rather than beautiful. Set up as fast as possible, in 10 years, there was no time to make it the aesthetic marvel Nara. What they build was big, functional and effective. And notably, without a single Buddhist temple around.

After a few years after the foundation, two well regulated temples were added at the beginning of the main road. The Imperial Citadel was at the opposite side of the City, at the northern end like in Nara, about four kilometres away.

As a result of this practical design, its plant staid basically unchanged for one thousand years. While all buildings have changed, the city is still basically organized in a rectangle long five kilometres and a half in the north-south direction and four and a half east-west, and divided in blocks by streets that still carry the ancient names, from the Ichijou (first branch) cutting the city right south of the Imperial Palace to the Juujou (tenth branch) at the far south border of the town.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The fatigue of the past days asks its toll today, and I am willing to concede a bit of rest to my body: I wake up around 10am. With three hours at disposal less than usual, it will be a day less packed than the other ones, but it's fine.

My first target is the the ruins of the Imperial Palace. Once in the middle of the city, it's now at the extreme western edge, and getting there is not a simple thing at all, especially considering that the public transportation in Nara is... sub-par... I'd say... with respect to the other cities I visited.

So, I get there walking, under the scorching sun of an end of September that hits harder than the August sun in most of Italy. It's about 40 minutes walk from my hotel, which is more or less at the far end of the road leading to the temples, the main road crossing the commercial center, but it's a nice walk and I am fresh.

I expected to see nothing, or at best a few faded landmark posters, but I am wrong. The Nara Prefecture is actually rebuilding the site with an attached cultural center and one museum. Those are still under construction, but the majestic main gate, the Throne Hall and vast sections of the wall are there waiting for me, so brand new they still smell of fresh paint.

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Monday, October 02, 2017

For those who know Japanese, this sentence can't mean anything but "nothing but deers!"

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Nara is famous for the presence of a countless number of deers in the eastern side of the city, once the public gardens that were part of the original plan of the city, now extended to comprise all the area of the temples and part of the surrounding mountains.

Yet, seeing this wild and usually very shy animals going around the town poking at tourists for the (regulated and controlled) deer-biscuits you can buy for 200 yen in a pack of five, is always a bewildering sight.

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Most of them also seem to like being petted, especially by the children, which the younger deer seem to actively be searching for, even if they rarely, if ever, get a biscuit from them.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Before talking of my sojourn in Nara, I want to describe why it's so interesting to me.

When it was founded, Nara was probably the most beautiful city of the time in the whole world.

The first city in Japan, and one of the first in the world, to be planned in every detail, it's building would span for about 16 years, to be completed in 710 C.E (in the meanwhile the Capital was temporarily set in the home town of the Fujiwara clan).

A square of roughly four kilometers per side with its north side gently lying against a hill ridge, its east side protruding in another sub-city one kilometer and a half comprising the temples of all the faiths active in Japan at the time, lying its eastern border on the slope of the Wakakusa mount, with many gardens, small hills, natural and artificially reshaped streams running through its border, Nara would have looked an image of a celestial town to any visitor.