Nara (奈良) is considered a small city today, but was once the capital of Japan and the seat of the Emperor. Today tourists like visiting it because of the UNESCO World Heritage site (Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara) which encompasses various temples and shrines. Plus, there are deers wandering in the middle of the city!
Most of the key attractions of Nara are clustered around Nara Park, which covers over 660 hectares, and where around 1,400 deer roam freely. Although the deer mainly cluster around the park, they can occasionally be seen in the middle of the city itself. The deers are considered sacred, and killing one was punishable by death.
It is a tradition of locals and tourists to purchase rice crackers (popularly called “shika senbei”) to feed the deer. I saw one woman surrounded by deer when she offered some crackers, which scared her.
The key attractions in the UNESCO World Heritage Site include:
Toudaiji (東大寺 or Eastern Great Temple): A Buddhist temple complex that was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. The Daibutsuden (大仏殿 or Great Buddha Hall) was once the world’s largest wooden building and houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha (大仏 or Daibutsu).
Tamukeyama Hachiman Shrine (手向山八幡宮): a Shinto shrine next to the Toudaiji and intended to house the Hachiman kami who will protect the Daibutsu.
Kasuga Grand Shrine (春日大社): Originally established in 768 by the Fujiwara clan, which dominated the Japanese politics of Heian period. The interior is famous for its many bronze lanterns, as well as the many stone lanterns that lead up the shrine.
Kasugayama Primeval Forest (春日山原始林), which is adjacent to the Kasuga Grand Shrine.
Shibuya is a major commercial and retail hub, but also famous for 3 things: Shibuya crossing (the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing), Hachiko the loyal dog, and Shibuya 109 (a fashion mecca for young girls).
Kamakura is a small town popular with tourists because of attractions such as the Hasedera temple located on a hill with great views of the town, the Great Buddha bronze statue and other temples and shrines.
We discovered the Sasuke Inari Shrine by accident while walking around in Kamakura. A set of bright red torii gates lead up a hill into a shrine full of statues of foxes and fox dwellings with families.
Huis Ten Bosch is a gigantic theme park in Sasebo (near Nagasaki) that is intended to be a mini version of Netherlands, including famous buildings such as the Huis Ten Bosch palace, Stadhuis and the Domtoren.
Kurashiki has a preserved canal area that dates back to the Edo Period, when the city served as an important rice distribution center. In fact, “Kurashiki” roughly translates to “town of storehouses” in reference to the rice storehouses.
Chris Tham is a co-founder of Visual Voyager Pty Ltd, the Principal Voigtländer Ambassador for Mainline Photographics and a Workshop Instructor for Mainline Photo Academy.
She brings over 35 years of experience as a photographer to her role, starting with a Yashica rangefinder belonging to her dad, joining the Photography Club in school, and developing her own photos.
More recently, Chris has been taking photos during her travels, and as a result has experienced some of the most interesting places in the world.
Chris focuses on nature, street, and urban architecture subjects in her photography.