Nara - Japan's First Capital
Nara was Japan's first real capital city in the 8th century,
later replaced by its neighbor Kyoto.  Nara was always a
center for Buddhist influence.  Today this is best represented
by Nara's Great Buddha, a bronze rival of the one at
Kamakura.  Nara's giant Buddha is part of the Todai-Ji
Temple, enclosed in the world's largest wooden building.
Nara's Buddha suffers from its dark enclosure in my opinion.
The Kamakura Great Buddha, open to air, sky, and visitors,
is more appealing.  Of course this Nara giant used to be a
third larger when first cast in 746.  It remains impressive.
Among many of Nara's World Heritage Sites can be found
the Nara sacred deer.  The deer adore tourists, who feed
them munchies sold by vendors.  The Nara deer end up quite
tame and extremely demanding when it comes to being fed.  I
repeatedly watched the deer chase after anyone who had fed
them, insisting that mealtime could not possibly be over.  
This is Nara's colorful Kasuga Shrine, famous for its lantern
festivals.  Lanterns of all varieties can be found everywhere,
more lanterns than I had ever seen packed closely together.
I doubt anyone at Kasuga has the slightest idea how many
lanterns are in the shrine, alongside the shrine, and lining the
paths which lead to Kasuga.  It's hard to miss; just follow the
trail of lanterns.
If you have a high speed internet connection, watch the
Intrepid Berkeley Explorer's free streaming video of this trip,
"Castles of the Rising Sun", by clicking on:
http://www.adventurepics.com/IBE/video1.aspx?
VF=RisingSun.wmv