We’ve spent the last two days in Nara with the Takemoto Family – David’s host family from his school days in Japan as an exchange student.

Last night, all the family came to visit and we had a great night, if not a noisy one, as we, David’s host parents, brother, and two sisters and their families came to visit. All in all, we had sixteen people in the family room, including five children younger than seven years of age. It was wonderful to catch up with everyone again and to compare stories about bringing up children in different cultures.

Today was our last full day of travel in Japan. We drove down to Nara Park which is an extensive area of parkland in the central city area. It contains some of the countries great monuments. This is because Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784. Little deer roam freely through the park and nod their heads in a simulated type of bow as people aproach them with an expectation of being given a morsel of food. Some of the more aggressive ones actively chase those visitors who have a bag of food or apple peel.

We found some beautiful temples where cherry trees were just bursting into flower and then we spent some time at Tordaiji – the largest wooden building in the world. This emormous building houses one of Japan’s three largest Buddhas. Even though I have been there before, it never seems to lose its prescence and sense of overwhelming size.

We then walked on through the park to Nigatsu-do Temple, another temple set up on the hill. From there, we walked to Kasagu Taisha which is a Shinto Shrine and built in a beautiful setting with an extensive series of stone lanterns along the pathway to the entrance. This is a fascinating place and one that has always intrigued me with its feeling of mystique and exotic charm. We just missed a wedding ceremony, although we were just in time to see the wedding party assemble for very formal and non-smiling photographs.

From there, it was back to the Takemoto’s house for lunch and then time for a quick walk around the local area before heading off to the station for a train. We had a quck meeting with David’s old home room teacher and school nurse who came to say goodbye at the station.

We filled in a little time by looking around the station and found our wayy to the skywalk from where we could get a good view over the city. From there, we caught the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) for a two hour trip to Tokyo.

Tonight, we will have what will probably be a very short night in our hotel before leaving on a late morning flight to Hong Kong.

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