Japan 2010 - Nara - Todei~ji - Kasuga Taishi

words and photos by Sharon Bader and Lee Lau unless otherwise noted.

Tokyo || Osaka || Kyoto || Kamakura

Saturday had us up at the crack of 5:15 to catch the 6:34 train from Shinagawa to Kyoto. From Kyoto we took another express train to Kintetsu Nara.

The Shinkansen - Bullet train

Once in Nara we were honoured to join the Hozoin-Ryu Sojutsu class. I had the added honour of being the first female practitioner since its inception 450 years ago.

From the website:
"The Hozoin-Ryu Sojutsu School of spearmanship, together with Yagyu-Ryu, both of which have their birthplace in Nara, Japan are representative of traditional Japanese martial arts. Approximately four-hundred fifty Years ago Hozoin Kakuzenbo Hoin ln-ei was a Buddhist monk of the Kohfukuji Temple in Nara, it is said that one evening, on seeing the reflection of the crescent moon shining on Sarusawa Pond, he was inspired to create a spear with
a cross-shaped spearhead, its effective use and reputation
spread nationwide."

Justin and Natan.

Two spears are used, the 2.7m cross shaped Yari, and the 3.6m heavier straight spear. We learned two kata - Aikurai and Makiyari.

Here Ichiya Sensei is showing Natan how to do the Makiyari.

Bruce and Sensei on the sword side of the equation.

Photo courtesy of Hozoin-ryu

Afterwards we were able to see a demonstration of the various Hozoin Ryu kata.

They also took some pictures of us you can see here

After class they treated us to a picnic under the cherry blossoms.

Ishiyama Sensei and me - Photo by Justin Yau

After lunch we went to Todai-ji - the Hall of the Great Sitting Buddha - Vairocana - built between 743-749.The building has since burnt down twice and rebuilt. The Buddha is original but has not been without some suffering. It lost its head in an earthquake in 855. The compound also used to house two SEVEN story Pagoda's. Seven since this Buddha has attained the highest level of enlightenment.

The side of the Great Hall and our guide.

The front of the great hall.

We were granted the honour of walking on the higher platform to get a closer look at the Buddha, the carvings on the lotus leaves it sits upon and the accompanying Buddha's on either side of this one.

The Great Buddha and one of the Noi Kings - there are four Noi kings at each corner of the compound to protect the Buddha

photo by Justin Yau

A model of what the original compound looked like before it was burnt down. Notice the two 7 story pagoda's at each side of the Great Hall.

photo by Justin Yau

Looking towards the Great Hall.

Gates before the Main Hall.

After leaving Todai-ji we walked to the Shinto Shrine - Kasuga Taisha which was constructed in 768.

Justin happy about something!

Amongst the park were many deer that are sacred here since legend has it that one of the four gods of this shrine, Takenomikazuchi-no-mikoto, once landed atop Mt. Mikasayama riding a deer.

Surrounding the shrine are many lanterns - 3000 - which are lit twice a year ( Feb 14th and Aug 15th) to help guide the Kami to the shrine at these special times.

Stone lanterns donated by various classes through the ages including the aristocracy, samurai warriors, merchants, and anybody who wants to make a contribution.

800 year old cedar in the court yard of the Konden - main hall.

Then it was time for dinner! We went to a great little place near Funahashi that specialized in Soba - Buckwheat - Kazu, is the name of the restaurant. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

mmmm stew!

Our dinner - Soba, Fried Daicon, Amazing Salad, Beef Stew, More Soba and ice cream. The presentation was also incredible.

No Ichiya Sensei, you're not driving tonight!

Natan, Ichiya Sensei, Ishiyama Sensei and our chef!

Photo courtesy of Hozoin-ryu