Nara, Japan

The Colossal Cradle of the Japanese Buddhism

Visitors admire the huge statue of Buddha Vairocana Buddha, 15 meters high and 500 tons.
Great Hall of Buddha
The world's largest ancient wooden building, Daibutsuden, in the center of Todai-ji temple.
Visitor runs away from a stalking deer beyond a temple access portal.
Smoking Ritual
Couple place an incense stick at the entrance to the Great Hall of Buddha.
Nara crowd
Visitors walk along the boulevard that leads to Todai-ji temple.
divine healer
Faithful caress parts of the body of Binzuru Sonja, Japanese god of healing and good eyesight.
Amplified Driving
Guide armed with a megaphone leads a group of Asian visitors.
Buddhist Guardian
Statue of a nio guardian, one of the protectors of the Buddha Daibutsu.
tight passage
A Japanese high school student crosses the hole in a pillar in the Great Hall, an unavoidable ritual of the Todai-ji temple.
Curiosity and indifference
Japanese man inspects a statue of a nio guardian, next to a lethargic deer.
Todai-ji Autumn
The Great Hall Daibutsuden across the lake from Todai-ji temple.
in grips
Young Japanese man tries to pass through the hole in the pillar of the Great Hall of Buddha.
golden tips
Detail of Buddhist architecture in the Great Hall of Buddha.
Buddhist Guardian II
Statue of a nio guardian, one of the protectors of the Buddha Daibutsu.
Curiosity and indifference II
Couple peeks inside a wooden fence, next to a deer that waits for its opportunity.
Nara has long since ceased to be the capital and its Todai-ji temple has been demoted. But the Great Hall remains the largest ancient wooden building in the world. And it houses the greatest bronze Vairocana Buddha.

Dessi, a Javanese hostess who sought to adapt to Nara's traditionalist and closed soul, had told us wonders of the Todai-ji shrine, the Great Temple of the East.

Despite being sensational, its description only increased our curiosity and made us rush to discover the monument.

The Sudden Sighting of the Great Todai-ji

We toured the entire vast Nara Park. After passing the various access portals to the enclosure, we come across the huge main temple Daibutsuden (Great Hall of Buddha) that does not disappoint.

Todai-ji Temple, Nara, Japan

The Great Hall Daibutsuden across the lake from Todai-ji temple.

Elegant and imposing, typical Buddhist architectural lines stand out in it, culminating in a double roof that projects laterally from the base body like a kind of Asian chapel.

In the center of the great hall, protected by two guardians Child The colossal and record-breaking bronze statue (15 meters high, 500 tons) of the Vairocana Buddha – in Japan, Daibutsu – stands out as menacing.

Guardian nio, Todai ji Temple, Nara, Japan

Statue of a nio guardian, one of the protectors of the Buddha Daibutsu.

It greets visitors and believers who, after purifying themselves at the entrance with incense smoke, now admire its magnificence.

Past the Nio Guardians, various faces of Buddha and Buddhism

The immensity of the building's wood is renewed in distinct spaces. In each of them, Buddhism demands different proofs of faith. One of them turns out to be a real contortionist challenge.

A line is formed in front of one of the pillars that support the Daibutsuden. Entire families and school trips of young Japanese are photographed passing back and forth through a tight hole in its base believed to be the same width as Daibutsu's nostrils.

Todai-ji Temple Ritual, Nara, Japan

A Japanese high school student crosses the hole in a pillar in the Great Hall, an unavoidable ritual of the Todai-ji temple.

This passage is supposed to grant spiritual liberation to those who achieve it, but when it comes to some suitors from northern Europe and North America, the challenge becomes serious. Instead of being freed, some have to be rescued from a distressing suffocation.

Faithful to Buddhist mythology, any ailments resulting from the squeeze can always be resolved by Binzuru Sonja, Japanese god of healing and good vision.

Leaving Daibutsuden, we see several elderly faithful simultaneously touching and rubbing their hands on different parts of the statue of this deity in order to try to overcome health problems they have in equivalent areas of their bodies.

Buddhist faithful play Binzuru Sonja, next to Todai ji temple, Nara, Japan

Faithful caress body parts of Binzuru Sonja, Japanese god of healing and good vision

With the mobility that Japanese longevity grants them, patients rush to follow their guides, always clearly identified by colored flags.

The Millennial Chinese Origin of Architecture, Writing and So Much More

Despite the centuries-old Sino-Japanese enmity, more and more of these tourist entourages are also Chinese and their participants delight in the exuberant Japanese culture. Some of them only discover on the spot that it was their Han nation that inspired them.

With less than 400.000 inhabitants, Nara is today an insignificant city by Japanese standards. But from 710 to 784 AD, it was promoted to revolutionary capital. By that time, Japanese society was predominantly rural, based on primitive villages and made up of communities that worshiped the kami (spirits) of natural forces and their ancestors.

Buddhist ritual with incense, Todai ji temple, Nara, Japan

Couple place an incense stick at the entrance to the Great Hall of Buddha.

But the political and cultural influence of powerful China was felt like never before.

And when the emperors dictated the construction of Heijo-Kyo (Nara's predecessor), following the Chang'an grid and Confucian model (today's Xi'an), a city of palaces, silks, wealth and widespread opulence changed to always the local landscape, until then formed by forests and agricultural fields.

Writing also arrived from China (which the Japanese continue to use as an alphabet kanji) and various artistic currents.

And the Passage of Buddhism across the Sea of ​​Japan

The most important cultural development carried out by Nara was, however, the flourishing of Buddhism, consolidated by the installation of large monasteries and their schools of thought that had distinguished themselves on the other side of the Sea of ​​Japan, during the Tang dynasty.

The practice of the new religion began by being confined to the capital, but under the rule of Prince Shotoku, it definitely influenced the Japanese government, which was fascinated in particular by the Golden Light Sutra, according to which Buddha was defined not only as a human being. historical but as the Law and Truth of the Universe.

Golden Tips of the Great Hall of Buddha, Todai ji Temple, Nara, Japan

Detail of Buddhist architecture in the Great Hall of Buddha.

Adoption by rulers and by the palace aristocracy, in general, gave Buddhism an unprecedented vitality and its teachings – adapted to reality and crossed with ancient Shinto mythology – quickly infected the Japanese islands.

These days, Buddhism continues to govern its spirituality and culture, in tune with the much older precepts of the shinto.

In Nara, like all over the country, this dichotomy is displayed in the most varied forms, from the refined and sublime to the most caricatured.

Visitors vs Deer, Todai-ji and Nara Park's Inescapable Battle

A longitudinal crowd roams the centuries-old avenue that leads outside the Todai-ji shrine and into the heart of vast Nara Park.

Crowd of visitors to Todai ji in Nara, Japan

Visitors walk along the boulevard leading to Todai-ji temple

Its flow is disturbed only by the presence of squads of the city's famous deer (deer nippon) who keep a keen eye and scrutinize passersby to beg or steal from them the delicacies they carry, in particular the biscuits shika sembei, for sale in stalls distributed throughout the gardens and concentrated outside the monuments.

At first amused by the bad experiences of others, we soon found ourselves also afflicted and having to run to get rid of their relentless pursuits.

Visitors to Todai Ji Temple and Deer, Nara, Japan

Couple peeks inside a wooden fence, next to a deer that waits for its opportunity.

According to Shinto mythology recorded in the Kazuga shrine of Nara, the god Takemikazuchi would have arrived riding a white deer to protect the newly built capital.

When the legend became popular, animals came to be considered sacred messengers of the gods. Several centuries later, they still roam the streets and parks, now protected by city law.

Visitor harassed by deer, Todai-ji temple, Nara, Japan

Visitor flees a stalking deer beyond a temple access portal

A Providential Refuge in the Heights

Desperate to get rid of the deer harassment, we climbed to the highest point of the village, Mount Kaigahira-yama (822m). From there, we unveil an impressive panorama of the city in general and some of the imposing buildings that project from it.

We also observed how the inevitable urban development had invaded the adjoining valley, extending around the historic center and from the urban axis that is Sanjo-dori, the most important of its commercial avenues.

This was, however, the contemporary nara. We reserve it for the days of Kansai that followed.

Tokyo, Japan

The Endless Night of the Rising Sun Capital

Say that Tokyo do not sleep is an understatement. In one of the largest and most sophisticated cities on the face of the Earth, twilight marks only the renewal of the frenetic daily life. And there are millions of souls that either find no place in the sun, or make more sense in the “dark” and obscure turns that follow.
Bingling Yes, China

The Canyon of a Thousand Buddhas

For more than a millennium and at least seven dynasties, Chinese devotees have extolled their religious belief with the legacy of sculpture in a remote strait of the Yellow River. If you disembark in the Canyon of Thousand Buddhas, you may not find all the sculptures, but you will find a stunning Buddhist shrine.
Guwahati, India

The City that Worships Kamakhya and the Fertility

Guwahati is the largest city in the state of Assam and in North East India. It is also one of the fastest growing in the world. For Hindus and devout believers in Tantra, it will be no coincidence that Kamakhya, the mother goddess of creation, is worshiped there.
Kyoto, Japan

The Kyoto Temple Reborn from the Ashes

The Golden Pavilion has been spared destruction several times throughout history, including that of US-dropped bombs, but it did not withstand the mental disturbance of Hayashi Yoken. When we admired him, he looked like never before.
Miyajima, Japan

Shintoism and Buddhism with the Tide

Visitors to the Tori of Itsukushima admire one of the three most revered scenery in Japan. On the island of Miyajima, Japanese religiosity blends with Nature and is renewed with the flow of the Seto Inland Sea.
Lhasa, Tibet

When Buddhism Tires of Meditation

It is not only with silence and spiritual retreat that one seeks Nirvana. At the Sera Monastery, the young monks perfect their Buddhist knowledge with lively dialectical confrontations and crackling clapping of hands.
Takayama, Japan

From the Ancient Japan to the Medieval Hida

In three of its streets, Takayama retains traditional wooden architecture and concentrates old shops and sake producers. Around it, it approaches 100.000 inhabitants and surrenders to modernity.
Kyoto, Japan

An Almost Lost Millennial Japan

Kyoto was on the US atomic bomb target list and it was more than a whim of fate that preserved it. Saved by an American Secretary of War in love with its historical and cultural richness and oriental sumptuousness, the city was replaced at the last minute by Nagasaki in the atrocious sacrifice of the second nuclear cataclysm.
Magome-Tsumago, Japan

Magome to Tsumago: The Overcrowded Path to the Medieval Japan

In 1603, the Tokugawa shogun dictated the renovation of an ancient road system. Today, the most famous stretch of the road that linked Edo to Kyoto is covered by a mob eager to escape.
Lhasa, Tibet

Sera, the Monastery of the Sacred Debate

In few places in the world a dialect is used as vehemently as in the monastery of Sera. There, hundreds of monks, in Tibetan, engage in intense and raucous debates about the teachings of the Buddha.
Bagan, Myanmar

The Plain of Pagodas, Temples and other Heavenly Redemptions

Burmese religiosity has always been based on a commitment to redemption. In Bagan, wealthy and fearful believers continue to erect pagodas in hopes of winning the benevolence of the gods.
Kyoto, Japan

A Combustible Faith

During the Shinto celebration of Ohitaki, prayers inscribed on tablets by the Japanese faithful are gathered at the Fushimi temple. There, while being consumed by huge bonfires, her belief is renewed.
Rhinoceros, PN Kaziranga, Assam, India
PN Kaziranga, India

The Indian Monoceros Stronghold

Situated in the state of Assam, south of the great Brahmaputra river, PN Kaziranga occupies a vast area of ​​alluvial swamp. Two-thirds of the rhinocerus unicornis around the world, there are around 100 tigers, 1200 elephants and many other animals. Pressured by human proximity and the inevitable poaching, this precious park has not been able to protect itself from the hyperbolic floods of the monsoons and from some controversies.
Mount Lamjung Kailas Himal, Nepal, altitude sickness, mountain prevent treat, travel
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna Circuit: 2nd - Chame to Upper BananaNepal

(I) Eminent Annapurnas

We woke up in Chame, still below 3000m. There we saw, for the first time, the snowy and highest peaks of the Himalayas. From there, we set off for another walk along the Annapurna Circuit through the foothills and slopes of the great mountain range. towards Upper Banana.
Architecture & Design
Castles and Fortresses

A Defending World: Castles and Fortresses that Resist

Under threat from enemies from the end of time, the leaders of villages and nations built castles and fortresses. All over the place, military monuments like these continue to resist.
lagoons and fumaroles, volcanoes, PN tongariro, new zealand
Tongariro, New Zealand

The Volcanoes of All Discords

In the late XNUMXth century, an indigenous chief ceded the PN Tongariro volcanoes to the British crown. Today, a significant part of the Maori people claim their mountains of fire from European settlers.
Balinese Hinduism, Lombok, Indonesia, Batu Bolong temple, Agung volcano in background
Ceremonies and Festivities
Lombok, Indonesia

Lombok: Balinese Hinduism on an Island of Islam

The foundation of Indonesia was based on the belief in one God. This ambiguous principle has always generated controversy between nationalists and Islamists, but in Lombok, the Balinese take freedom of worship to heart
Male Maldives

The Maldives For Real

Seen from the air, Malé, the capital of the Maldives, looks little more than a sample of a crammed island. Those who visit it will not find lying coconut trees, dream beaches, spas or infinite pools. Be dazzled by the genuine Maldivian everyday life that tourist brochures omit.
young saleswoman, nation, bread, uzbekistan
Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan, The Nation That Does Not Lack Bread

Few countries employ cereals like Uzbekistan. In this republic of Central Asia, bread plays a vital and social role. The Uzbeks produce it and consume it with devotion and in abundance.
Kigurumi Satoko, Hachiman Temple, Ogimashi, Japan
Ogimashi, Japan

An Historical-Virtual Japan

"Higurashi no Naku Koro never” was a highly successful Japanese animation and computer game series. In Ogimashi, Shirakawa-Go village, we live with a group of kigurumi of their characters.
4th of July Fireworks-Seward, Alaska, United States
Seward, Alaska

The Longest 4th of July

The independence of the United States is celebrated, in Seward, Alaska, in a modest way. Even so, the 4th of July and its celebration seem to have no end.
End of the day at the Teesta river dam lake in Gajoldoba, India
Dooars India

At the Gates of the Himalayas

We arrived at the northern threshold of West Bengal. The subcontinent gives way to a vast alluvial plain filled with tea plantations, jungle, rivers that the monsoon overflows over endless rice fields and villages bursting at the seams. On the verge of the greatest of the mountain ranges and the mountainous kingdom of Bhutan, for obvious British colonial influence, India treats this stunning region by Dooars.
Goa, India

To Goa, Quickly and in Strength

A sudden longing for Indo-Portuguese tropical heritage makes us travel in various transports but almost non-stop, from Lisbon to the famous Anjuna beach. Only there, at great cost, were we able to rest.
View of Fa Island, Tonga, Last Polynesian Monarchy
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Got2Globe Portfolio

Exotic Signs of Life


Defenders of Their Homelands

Even in times of peace, we detect military personnel everywhere. On duty, in cities, they fulfill routine missions that require rigor and patience.
Solovetsky, Islands, Archipelago, Russia, Autumn, UAZ, Autumn road
Bolshoi Solovetsky, Russia

A Celebration of the Russian Autumn of Life

At the edge of the Arctic Ocean, in mid-September, the boreal foliage glows golden. Welcomed by generous cicerones, we praise the new human times of Bolshoi Solovetsky, famous for having hosted the first of the Soviet Gulag prison camps.
Horses under a snow, Iceland Never Ending Snow Island Fire
Winter White
Husavik a Myvatn, Iceland

Endless Snow on the Island of Fire

When, in mid-May, Iceland already enjoys some sun warmth but the cold and snow persist, the inhabitants give in to an intriguing summer anxiety.
On the Crime and Punishment trail, St. Petersburg, Russia, Vladimirskaya
Saint Petersburg, Russia

On the Trail of "Crime and Punishment"

In St. Petersburg, we cannot resist investigating the inspiration for the base characters in Fyodor Dostoevsky's most famous novel: his own pities and the miseries of certain fellow citizens.
Bather, The Baths, Devil's Bay (The Baths) National Park, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Virgin Gorda's Divine “Caribbaths”

Discovering the Virgin Islands, we disembark on a tropical and seductive seaside dotted with huge granite boulders. The Baths seem straight out of the Seychelles but they are one of the most exuberant marine scenery in the Caribbean.
Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Autumn Homes
Sheki, Azerbaijan

autumn in the caucasus

Lost among the snowy mountains that separate Europe from Asia, Sheki is one of Azerbaijan's most iconic towns. Its largely silky history includes periods of great harshness. When we visited it, autumn pastels added color to a peculiar post-Soviet and Muslim life.
Meares glacier
Natural Parks
Prince William Sound, Alaska

Journey through a Glacial Alaska

Nestled against the Chugach Mountains, Prince William Sound is home to some of Alaska's stunning scenery. Neither powerful earthquakes nor a devastating oil spill affected its natural splendor.
Cathedral of Santa Ana, Vegueta, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
UNESCO World Heritage
Vegueta, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Around the Heart of the Royal Canaries

The old and majestic Vegueta de Las Palmas district stands out in the long and complex Hispanization of the Canaries. After a long period of noble expeditions, the final conquest of Gran Canaria and the remaining islands of the archipelago began there, under the command of the monarchs of Castile and Aragon.
aggie gray, Samoa, South Pacific, Marlon Brando Fale
Apia, Western Samoa

The Host of the South Pacific

She sold burguês to GI's in World War II and opened a hotel that hosted Marlon Brando and Gary Cooper. Aggie Gray passed away in 2. Her legacy lives on in the South Pacific.
conversation at sunset
Boracay, Philippines

The Philippine Beach of All Dreams

It was revealed by Western backpackers and the film crew of “Thus Heroes are Born”. Hundreds of resorts and thousands of eastern vacationers followed, whiter than the chalky sand.
Herd in Manang, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Annapurna Circuit: 8th Manang, Nepal

Manang: the Last Acclimatization in Civilization

Six days after leaving Besisahar we finally arrived in Manang (3519m). Located at the foot of the Annapurna III and Gangapurna Mountains, Manang is the civilization that pampers and prepares hikers for the ever-dreaded crossing of Thorong La Gorge (5416 m).
Train Fianarantsoa to Manakara, Malagasy TGV, locomotive
On Rails
Fianarantsoa-Manakara, Madagascar

On board the Malagasy TGV

We depart Fianarantsoa at 7a.m. It wasn't until 3am the following morning that we completed the 170km to Manakara. The natives call this almost secular train Train Great Vibrations. During the long journey, we felt, very strongly, those of the heart of Madagascar.
Tombola, street bingo-Campeche, Mexico
Campeche, Mexico

200 Years of Playing with Luck

At the end of the XNUMXth century, the peasants surrendered to a game introduced to cool the fever of cash cards. Today, played almost only for Abuelites, lottery little more than a fun place.
herd, foot-and-mouth disease, weak meat, colonia pellegrini, argentina
Daily life
Colónia Pellegrini, Argentina

When the Meat is Weak

The unmistakable flavor of Argentine beef is well known. But this wealth is more vulnerable than you think. The threat of foot-and-mouth disease, in particular, keeps authorities and growers afloat.
Jeep crosses Damaraland, Namibia
damaraland, Namíbia

Namibia On the Rocks

Hundreds of kilometers north of Swakopmund, many more of Sossuvlei's iconic dunes, Damaraland is home to deserts interspersed with red rocky hills, the young nation's highest mountain and ancient rock art. the settlers South Africans they named this region after the Damara, one of the Namibian ethnic groups. Only these and other inhabitants prove that it remains on Earth.
The Sounds, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Scenic Flights
Fiordland, New Zealand

The Fjords of the Antipodes

A geological quirk made the Fiordland region the rawest and most imposing in New Zealand. Year after year, many thousands of visitors worship the sub-domain slashed between Te Anau and Milford Sound.