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Nara: November

'Koyo' in Japanese translates to the slightly more wordy English expression; 'changing colors of the autumn leaves', and Koyo is one of the best times of the year to tour Japan. The countryside bursts into color, making every twist and turn even more of a thrill than usual.

Koyo outside of Nara

Blessed with more crisp clear blue-sky days than other times of the year, Koyo season offers up magnificent views from the many skylines and mountain passes, and makes for ideal photographing conditions (the full photo album will be uploaded soon). Depending on location, 'Koyo' starts as early as late September and as late as December in the more temperate zones.

Enjoji temple near Nara

Enjoji temple

My target for this trip was a place called Nara. Less known than the more touristy Kyoto, Nara is celebrating its 1300th anniversary of becoming Japan's ancient capital. Yes, you read that correctly. This town has a 1300 year history and was the capital of Japan in the years 710-784. Hence, Nara has more than its fair share of history and culture and is why most of the town is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Kofukuji temple, Nara

However, if you rounded up a random group of people and asked them to give you one word that comes to mind when thinking of Nara, you might find it strange that the word 'deer' would come up on top of the list, ahead of Buddha, temple, shrine, or okonomiyaki! The reason is that deer have basically free reign over the town, because legend has it that the Gods first flew into Nara on the backs of white deer. Most of the deer in Nara spend most of their time in and around the park and temples area, but they are quite welcome to stroll through town, so don't be too surprised if you see one walking down the main shopping street while you're picking up souvenirs.

Deer in Nara park

I have seen more than a couple of temples and shrines since first coming to Japan, and although I still find them awe-inspiring, I now find myself looking for the odd or slightly quirky to keep things entertaining. So, of all the sites to see in Nara, it was the Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall) inside the Todaiji temple complex that had perked my interest. The Daibutsuden is the world's largest wooden building and is home to the world's largest bronze Buddha statue.


The ride into town had been fairly cloudy, but after parking up and grabbing a bite to eat, the afternoon sun had decided to come out, so I dropped my chopsticks and raced off for the park to get some shots. It was a Sunday, so the park (which is massive by the way) was packed full of people. I dodged many a deer and tourist as I hurried to Todaiji temple. I had a date with the Buddha and the sun was streaming in from just the right angle. I made it in time to get a couple of nice shots, and then paid my 500yen to go inside and face the Buddha.

15-meter high Bronze Buddha at Todaiji

The shots I took from inside the temple pale in comparison to just standing there in front him. It took some time to take in all his grandeur. He really is quite a magnificent-looking buddha, and such a welcoming expression he's been radiating for the past few centuries. Very nice indeed, and well worth the trip.