Visiting a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nara

Our trip from Uda to Nara started with a 1.5 hour train ride in which we changed trains twice and luckily didn’t loose anyone in the group. We were guided by members of the Local Organizing Committee of Uda along with two volunteer tour guides who were happy to share information and stories along the way.

In Nara, we were welcomed by the unusual sight of tame deers who were quite friendly and were waiting to be fed in exchange for a Japanese style bow! Afterwards we saw a variety of Buddhist temples that are registered on the UNESCO world heritage list. The highlight for me was the Todaiji temple, which is one of the oldest wooden buildings in the world, containing an antique sitting Buddha statue – which raised the question – How did people constructed this piece of art back in 752 AD?

Our guides helped us to understand the basics of Buddhism and the way people integrate this religion into their daily life. I found it difficult to really understand – especially in comparison to other religions – but everything I heard made me curious to learn more.

Afterwards we had the chance to visit a Shinto-shrine surrounded by thousands of stone lanterns and hear about and see the rituals and rules of Japanese people practicing this belief. What really impressed me was that in the shrine area you would never cut a tree as every living being is worshiped in its own way – that’s why you could see an old tree integrated into buildings instead of being removed for the construction of man-made structures.

Sitting in the train on the way back, I was still impressed and curious to find out more about these two religions, coexisting and so well integrated into the every day lives of most of my Japanese host families.

(Ute Weber, Germany)

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