In the midst of all the danger surrounding him because of his relationship with Gou and trying to workout whether or not he wanted to remain by the man’s side, Jamie is given the opportunity to visit Nara. Gou needs to go there to handle business with the former capital of Japan an area that his group controls and takes Jamie along intending to treat it like a date, at least once business matters have been sorted. Of course nothing goes to plan and you’ll have to read the book to find out exactly what does occur.
Nara is not far from Kyoto and Osaka and can be reached from either city by train, making it an easy day trip.
Jamie is a bit of a history buff – he did get a Master’s in it after all – and so is quite excited to visit the city and see many of the temples that are there. Though what has more excited and bemused about heading to Nara is the prospect of feeding deer. He struggles to believe that such a thing is possible, even more so when he learns they bow three times to get food – specially made biscuits that can be purchased from vendors throughout the park. It’s hard because for Jamie, being a farm by from New Zealand, deer are either seen as noxious pests only good for hunting or farmed for their antlers and meat. Feeding them, seeing them as they walked around Nara Park, was an experience he’ll never forget.
In January 2016, I had the chance to visit Japan and one of the places we visited was Nara. We did it as a day trip from Kyoto before heading to Hiroshima. I can say that seeing the deer walking around the park, lying on the grass and generally not giving a shit about the people wandering around – unless you had food then you became a person of great importance – was amazing, hard to believe. Before we’d left New Zealand we’d been told about the deer and how they’d been taught to bow their heads three times before taking food, but you don’t really believe it until you see it firsthand. It wasn’t as though there was one or two deer or even twenty, more like closer to hundred of them spread across the large park, wandering through it and not kept behind fences.
Of course it wasn’t only the deer that were of interest to Jamie in Nara. The plan had been for him to meet up with Gou and visit Todai-ji together. Todai-ji is a historically significant Buddhist Temple and houses the worlds largest bronze statue of Buddha, so for a history buff, a definite must see. At least that had been the plan, and Jamie soon learned how quickly those change.
Arriving at the Temple’s outer grounds, Jamie is struck by the large crowds already filling the place. Chinese New Year adding an extra influx of tourists on top of the numbers who visited the temple normally. Crowds that waxed and waned with each arrival and departure of tour buses. He soon learns that crowds can be dangerous place to be stuck in…. but you’ll need to read the book to find out why.
We visited Nara during that same time period and I reckoned I said dui bu qi as often as I said sumimasen (excuse me) as you tried to make (push) your way through or tried to dodge the large groups around you. But it was worth the visit, and maybe Jamie will get the chance to return to Nara again, someday.
Find out more about Jamie’s trip to Nara in
Book One: The Yakuza and the English Teacher series