Friday, 18 August 2017

Cricket fun in Sri Lanka

Pallekele Stadium looks so green and nice. 

It is just a three hour plus flight to Colombo from Delhi. As a policy the Sri lankan Airlines does not serve whisky (my favoured drink) to economy class passengers. I had learnt this 10 years ago on my last travel on this airline. Last week this fact was mentioned with disappointment to my dear friend who happened to be travelling in the business class in the same flight as me. He was gracious enough to pull some strings so I could have a comfortable flight over much of India .

My wife Devicka and I were on our way to watch the India Vs Sri Lanka test match at Pallekle . This may sound a bit weird as I haven’t watched a test match on ground in last 5 years. Why would we fly thousands of mile for watching just a couple of days of test match ?  Obviously there is a story behind it and it is actually a simple story.

My dear friend Murali Kartik invited me to Sri Lanka to watch the match and he added certain temptations to this invite. He was covering the series as a commentator and would be in Sri Lanka for around 2 months. The temptations Kartik gave me were not working and I wasn't convinced enough to book my air tickets so he finally gave me an offer that I could not refuse. The offer was so tremendous that I even convinced Devicka to accompany me even though she is always a reluctant traveler.

Actually Devicka has an old school  friend in Negombo (Near Colombo Airport) whom we last met around 10 years ago during our trip to Sri Lanka. Much has happened in her life so Devicka was very keen to meet her.  The weekend I planned for the trip also happened to be an extended one due to some holidays. Things were working out well as it was important for Devicka to look forward to the trip as much as I was doing for it to be a success.

Negombo


Negombo fishing boats

Negombo is a coastal town near the Bandaranaike Airport and it is around 40 kms from Colombo. We reached our small hotel late at night and it was in the morning as the curtains were undrawn that it became apparent that we were close to the Negombo Lagoon and the fishing centre. The place was bustling with activity. On the other side of town are some lovely hotels on the beach but on this trip there was no time for the beach.

In the few hours we were in Negombo we walked to the fishing village, met Manisha and family by visiting their heritage house, drove around the Lagoon and the coast and had a hearty lunch before proceeding towards Kandy.

Devicka with her Sri Lankan school friend Manisha at Negombo

It was lovely meeting Manisha and her family . Her teenage son  happened to be a die hard cricket fan and was pretty disappointed as India had already won two test matches and as we sat in their house, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul were walloping the SL bowlers.

Kandy

 
Lake city of Kandy

The roads have become crowded in Sri Lanka and traffic is also pretty bad. It took us 3 hours to get to our hotel in Kandy.  I had tried to book us in the same hotel as the commentary team but that hotel was full on the required dates. Luckily we had found a small boutique hotel called Clove Villa right opposite the Mahaweli Reach hotel . Clove Villa turned out to be very nice and homely place. Charlie was in charge there and he did a good job of serving great food. Mahaweli is the main river in this area and also known as Mahaweli Ganga. Clove Villa had nice rooms, homely atmosphere and a small pool. I plunged myself into the pool for an hour to get relaxed  and then read a book .






Thatched roofs and greenery

As the day 1 of the third cricket match ended, the commentary team reached the hotel late in evening and Kartik asked us to come over to his room. He had a promise to keep !

Mahawale Reach hotel  was nice hotel with good gardens and a nice pool. Normally the cricket teams stayed here but this time the Indian cricket team was staying somewhere else. We sat in Kartiks room and chatted with another prominent commentator Harsha Bhogale when there was a knock at the door. In walked  Sunny Gavaskar – my childhood hero and one of the greatest batsman that world has seen. The next few hours were spent in the company of this soft spoken legend. Kartik had more than kept his promise.

Sunny Bhai had been more than a hero to me. During the days he was playing cricket I was quite obsessed with him. I had read his book 'Sunny Days' 6-7 times and did not miss any innings if it was being telecast. While friends in College had posters of fancy cars, pop artists and soccer stars on the walls- my wall adorned a poster of Sunny Gavaskar with Bish Bedi ! 


This picture would soon adorn a wall in my house

The Test Match


Pallekele was around 40 minutes drive from Kandy. It was in Baskaran’s tuk tuk (3 wheeler) that we were transported to this lovely ground. We had great hospitality seats and it was a fantastic day of cricket from India’s point of view.  Hardik Pandya produced a sensational century and then Shami demonstrated a great spell of fast bowling. By the end of the day Sri Lanka was already following on and looking in dire straits.  

Baskaran had come to receive us and his tuk tuk with VIP parking sticker was parked amongst the top end cars in parking lot. The security had tried to bully him by saying that this sticker was not valid on tuk tuk but Baskaran was a fiery little fellow. He wanted them to show such rule in writing, so they relented and he had his way. He took us all over the Kandy town; around the lake; on some hills and to shopping areas.Having worked in Qatar in company of Indians- he knew Hindi pretty well and tried to speak with us in Hindi whenever he would get a chance. 

We have been to Kandy before so didn't need to spend time visting temples and other touristy places. The changes are apparent in this town also as in my mind I had this image of a quiet lake city. Now this city has also become crowded and polluted with honking cars and large population on roads. The area around the bus stand is the worst. 

At the end of it all Devicka was dead tired but I had another evening to spend with Sunny Bhai and Kartik. Being an avid follower of cricket since childhood it was a dream come true to be in such kind of company. Talking to Harsha, Kartik and Sunny Bhai about cricket and listening to them gave a different kind of high. The hangover will remain for a long long time.


Happy in the company of idol. 


Kartik also introduced me to Amalie, the head of Sony Sri Lanka. They were waiting for midnight to usher in her birthday and I become part of the celebrations. Amalie was kind enough to offer me another day of hospitality at the stadium the next day but as the match had become one sided,  I declined the offer and decided to travel to Colombo the next day to spend a few hours before our flight.

We already had an evening train ticket but as train tickets were cheap, we booked for an earlier train so more time could be spent in Colombo. In any case there was nothing much to do in Kandy. Baskaran had helped us procure the tickets and then saw us off.  He was one interesting character and we enjoyed his company throughout. Though it was a first class compartment, it wasn’t too impressive and the train really did shake and jolt a lot. It shook so much that reading a book was difficult. The lush green countryside was soothing  to the eyes  as the train hurtled through the scenic villages of Sri Lanka. 

Colombo



In Colombo we spent most of the time at the famous shop Odel. It has become fancier each successive time we have been there. It is quite large with different sections and one can easily spend a few hours there. They sell clothes, souvenirs, tea, jewellery and loads of other stuff. We also visited another famous shop nearby called ‘Paradise Road.’ We didn’t buy anything at Odel or Paradise road but just spent time roaming around and then having coffee. In the complex they have made a lovely area with stalls, bar and restaurants and I did grab a beer before we  left for the Airport. The Airport has become pretty accessible from Colombo as a new swanky highway has been built. The challenge was to reach highway as Colombo is also flooded with cars now. In spite of all this it just took an hour to get from Odel to Airport. 

Odel Promenade for food and drinks. 

This was a short trip without a visit to the famed beaches of Sri lanka or the tea gardens of Nuwara Eliya. But thanks to Kartik-it will remain a memorable trip for us always. 



I love this picture of Kartik with Sunny Bhai








Monday, 24 July 2017

Goodbye Japan- Last day visit to a Japanese garden and Soka University

Tea House at Japanese Garden

I had first heard of a Japanese Garden during a trip to Sydney many years ago. In many cities that I have traveled since then, I have been told about the presence of Japanese Gardens. It was in Victoria, Canada that I actually experienced one at the famous Butchart gardens as we spent a few hours there. That particular Japanese garden created in 1906 was the first of its kind in that part of the world. 

Japanese cities are full of gardens. If you look at a tourist guide and look for places to visit, the names of several gardens would pop up in each city. Even each shrine we had visited had boasted of  lovely gardens. These gardens are beautifully maintained and offer you a lot of serenity. It was on the last day of our Japan trip that I got a chance to spend a couple of hours at Shinjuku Gyoen national garden. The family had decided to go for some last minute shopping and I took off for the gardens which were about twenty minutes walk away. Set on 144 acres it blends French formal garden, English landscape garden and Japanese traditional garden. 

Certain elements have to be the integral part of  a Japanese Garden : 

These gardens are right in the middle of bustling Shinjuku area. Bridges are an integral part of Japanese gardens.

Water : It contributes to the expression of nature and symbolizes renewal, calm, wonder and continuity in the hereafter.

Stones : Stones are a symbol of duration . The stones are laid out in accordance with strict rules, depending on their shapes and sizes; they often are twinned by pairs.

Lantern: With the advent of the tea ceremony, the lantern became a leading element in the layout of a Japanese garden.

Bridges: Bridges are privileged sites in a Japanese garden, where one can linger and take in the beauty of the landscape and enjoy the lovely breeze.

Plants: The Japanese show a natural ability to interpret the charm of plants and flowers in order to express their joys and pains. 

Some images clicked by me are for you to enjoy these lovely gardens :

Love this colour

The Japanese love their plants and they love photography. Don't know what exactly caught their interest here. 


School children are given exposure to everyday life by frequent visits to museums, shrines and gardens
They must be mighty pleased to be out in open

It was all so beautiful that one could have spent an entire day here
I could spend limited time here as we had to travel to airport to catch our flight. The evening before our departure and on the same day that we arrived from Osaka we visited Soka University of Japan. Soka University is also a prominent University in USA. In Japan they have many international students and amongst them are our family members. 

Soka University


Our visit to this premier institution of japan happened as my cousin Tushita and nephew Shaurav are students here. We had been to Universities in UK and USA but thought that it would be nice to visit a university here as culture is totally different. With close relatives studying here, we saw it as an opportunity to visit Soka university on the outskirts of Tokyo. 

The instructions by Tushita were very clear – Take Chuo line from Shinjuku as JR pass is valid on that and get off at Hachioji station. From there take a bus to just outside the University. By now we had become pros as far as Japan transportation system was concerned. Just an hour before boarding the train from Shinjuku, we had arrived by Shinkansen from Osaka. Distances become irrelevant when you have such fast and efficient transport system.

At the University with Tushita
The surprise came when we were shown a statue of Rabindranath Tagore right in the middle of campus. This great man had rightly been honoured by a great University in a faraway land. 

As we got our picture clicked there and moved on a young boy came running to us. He apologized for spoiling our picture as they were playing in the background and offered to click another one. We assured him that their being in the background actually enhanced the quality of the snap !

Rabindranath Tagore has written Indian national Anthem. It was thrilling to see a statue of the Nobel laureate here. 


An auditorium with a capacity of 4000. Principal of my ex school La Martiniere Lucknow has a dream of this capacity auditorium in the campus. 

This is a famous pond in the campus where the students come and relax and meditate.
 As the University is set amongst the forests of Tama foothills, you can see a lot of greenery from a vantage point from one one of the buildings. There are hills and greenery all around. Lovely setting for a University to be in. During the cherry blossom season the flowers bloom all over the University making it into a very picturesque location. It was surprising to hear that on a clear day Mt Fujiyama is visible from here.

Soka University is located amongst the verdant forests of Tama foothills. 

Nice cafeteria. It had become a bit chilly that evening so it was a good idea to have a nice cup of coffee here. 

A special round of the library was given to us as Tushita worked here part time. 
Saying bye to our Japanese family members studying at Soka University. 
This ends my marathon series of blogs on Japan visit. Hope you enjoyed reading them and they were knowledgeable.

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

Hiroshima & Miyajima- A bittersweet feeling !


The Dome and the history of bombing. 

On August 6, 1945 America dropped atom bomb on Japanese city of Hiroshima. While this precipitated the end to the Pacific War & World War II,  a nice and robust town having strategic industrial and military significance was flattened out totally with almost eighty thousand dead immediately and lakhs suffering radiation for rest of their lives. 

Once it had been decided that we would be traveling to Japan for our summer vacations and would be spending part of our holiday at Osaka, I had very much decided that Hiroshima will be an integral part of our itinerary. Not only did I want to visit this city about which I had been hearing and reading since childhood, I wanted my children to experience the museum which graphically gave a full account of what happened and the effects it had. 

Once again it was the bullet train (Shinkansen) which got us to Hiroshima from Osaka in less than 90 minutes. Traveling within Japan becomes very easy and swift due to these super efficient and fast trains. The more we traveled on bullet trains, the more value for money we got out of our Japanese Rail pass. We did utilise the pass very well. 

At the train station we boarded a tourist bus and bought the tickets for full day. Here we made a mistake as we could have saved this money as JR pass was valid on this bus but we missed the sign that said so. 

This bus is very convenient as it takes you to all the tourist spots.


The bus goes in a full circle and brings you back to the rail station. It is a hop on hop off bus. After every 30 minutes the bus leaves the rail station . You can get off anywhere and then after visiting the attraction you can board the next bus. We got off at the Hiroshima castle and spent some time reading about its history and relaxing in the gardens. This castle was similar to the Osaka castle. An hour later we boarded another bus. 



Hiroshima Castle


 After this the bus stopped at many places like art/music college, University, Museums etc but our interest was somewhere else. We did not get off anywhere else till we reached the Genbaku Dome. The Dome is today the most significant symbol of the destruction that Hiroshima faced.

You can see the new modern buildings behind the Dome. 
We had been in Hiroshima for a couple of hours before reaching the dome. Hiroshima comes as a surprise as it is a bustling city with modern buildings, good roads and busy markets. It comes as a surprise because you have  an image of devastation in your mind before you come here. The Dome was very near the epicentre and in some way that had prevented it from being flattened out at the time the bomb dropped here. All other buildings in the town were destroyed totally. The city council and the citizens did well not to let it be destroyed while re-making the city and preserved it for future generations to see. This perhaps is the only structure which remains from that time and it is a reminder of what the city went through.

The memorial
From the Dome we walked to the memorial nearby and paid homage to many who got killed by this senseless action. I say it was senseless because America bombed Japan just to prove a point to Russia and to show that it had a bomb. Japan could have been defeated without the bomb also. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen as targets as their topography guaranteed maximum damage and deaths.

The museum 
A short walk from the memorial is the museum and we spent a couple of hours here. They have audio- visuals here and they have graphic pictures which make you feel really sad. The story about that day and aftermath is presented to you through visuals and sounds and several actual pictures. In one of the displays, the city is shown as a a bustling urban centre full of greenery before being bombed. Next we see the city becoming black and full of death - all this is shown digitally and the visuals are created to maximise the effect. History of bomb, the reasons why it was made, the reasons why Hiroshima was bombed- all this is presented beautifully. Many stories are presented there and unfortunately all of them are sad.

I have titled the experience bitter-sweet as experiencing all this at the Dome, the memorial, and the museum makes you very sad. But seeing the bustling city today and the fact that world has desisted from this kind of use of Atom bomb since then - this is a pleasing aspect. I am really pleased that we made an effort to come here and this visit will remain an integral part of the memories of the Japan trip.

Miyajima 


The Tori gate - a symbol of Japan in advertisements. 

The Miyajima Tori gate in the middle of water is an advertisement you may have seen often in magazines and the net. You immediately associate this symbol with Japan so a visit here became necessary. Miyajima is an island just off Hiroshima and reaching here is not very difficult.

We went by the same bus from the museum to the station, had a quick lunch there and boarded a JR train to Miyajinaguchi station which must be around 40 minutes away. A short walk away is a ferry terminal and there is a JR ferry as well with a 30 minute service which takes you to the island of Miyajima. This ride is included in your JR rail pass. From the ferry you can see the island and the Tori gate as you approach it. The cameras start working from the ferry itself.

Ferry terminal at Miyajima

Miyajima is a nice island with lovely green hills. We walked till the Tori gate for a few pictures and then checked out the shrine . By now we had seen so many shrines and temples that this one looked no different. However the setting was quite pleasing to the eyes due to the lush green surroundings.




We walked back to the ferry terminal through the market and as you can see from the picture below, a lot of deer roamed around in Miyajima as well. Thankfully they were not as greedy as the ones in Nara.


Many deer were present in Miyajima as well.


We had made a booking for our trip back to Osaka on Shinkansen so it was time to go back. On the way from ferry station to Miyajinaguchi station we found a delightful cafe called 'The bluebird coffee shop' which served great coffee and frappes. The owner had started business in a vehicle many years ago before graduating to a full fledged cafe. The vehicle was part of the decor of cafe now and you can see in the picture below on the right side, each part of vehicle was being utilised.




This was our last evening in the southern part of Japan as we were leaving for Tokyo the next day. We had been in the south for almost 6 days. As was expected, the last evening in Osaka was spent amongst the crowds and hustle bustle of Dotonbury street.


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Monday, 17 July 2017

Kyoto - The Imperial capital of Japan




It was a wise decision to stay in Osaka and visit Kyoto for sightseeing. While Osaka was vibrant and full of gloss, glitter and amazing energy, Kyoto was more subdued and old fashioned. I don't know what the distance from Osaka to Kyoto is but bullet trains gets you there in 14 minutes flat. A normal train takes around 40 minutes. Thanks to the speed of the Shinkansens which made Kyoto so accessible -  we visited the city twice. Kyoto is a temple town with a never ending list of famous temples. For most people who visit Japan, a visit to this city forms an integral part of itinerary.

Kyoto had once been the capital of Imperial Japan for more than a thousand years. Perhaps that is the reason it has such lovely buildings and temples. It is a city full of history and culture. If we were to visit each famous temple and building there, it would have taken a month. It's said that USA had shortlisted it for atomic bomb attack but it got saved and Hiroshima and Nagasaki got Nuked.

Shinkansen from Shin Osaka station to Kyoto took less time than our visit from our hotel to the Shin Osaka station. Once again we had landed in a town and we had no clue what to see and where to visit. At the station itself we should have gone to tourist office and bought a full day ticket for Yen 500 valid on all city buses. They would have told us where to visit as well. Someone suggested at the bus stop that we go to the golden pavillion or Kinkakuji. We got on to a JR bus and got a free ride (as we had the pass) till a certain place 30 minutes . From here we walked for another 10-15 minutes. It would have been simpler had we bought a day pass and taken a direct bus.

Bus routes given to help tourists

Figuring out the bus routes


The bus stop at the station was well organised and I figured out that Kyoto was a large city with famous temples in all directions. While it would be prudent to do temples close to each other riding on  buses or short ride cabs, to go to a  totally different direction it would be better to come back to the station and see the routes from this board and get on to the correct bus accordingly. For this the day pass would be really economical. But you also need to start early so enough time could be devoted to sightseeing. For that you don't need just the time but also abundance of stamina.

There was a ticket to enter the Kinkakuji shrine and we joined hundreds who were entering at the same time. We didn't know what to expect and had been under an impression that we were entering just another shrine. The view of the golden temple built in the middle of a pond was breathtaking. It was really beautiful. The greenery and water gave it a certain serenity which was not disturbed even after having so many people around.

The Golden Pavillion is a Zen temple. 

This temple was the former retirement home of the famous shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and after his death it became a Zen temple.

Just a little away from Golden pavilion was Ryoanji temple. This again was a lovely complex with a lot of greenery and lovely pond but it is most famous for the Rock Garden which has 15 rocks laid down in small lots in a smallish rectangular area. Specialty of place is that at least one rock is hidden from view from any position.

The Rock Garden. They called it the Zen Garden also

Turtles and lotus leaves at the pond

The Bamboo Forests


Our adventure continued and we talked to tourists and others and sought their advise regarding places to visit. Ssomeone mentioned that Kyoto was famous for the Arashiyama Bamboo grove. So we hired a cab and got dropped near the grove where we had nice lunch before entering the forest area. It was quite a long ride as we had come to the western part of town now.


The Bamboo grove

It was quite a walk once we entered the forest. This place was also bustling with tourists. In certain places it seemed that darkness had descended upon us as the tall bamboo trees totally covered the sky. Its quite a feeling walking on long narrow paths  with bamboo trees on the sides. There was a monkey park in vicinity and another Buddhist temple. There is scenic Saga rail which chuggs along Hozu river giving great views. It is a 25 minute train ride but by the time we reached the station at the end of Bamboo grove, the station had closed down for the day. The train would have taken us near the JR station but unfortunately we had missed the last Saga train. We had no choice but to walk all the way back .

 This area of Arashiyama is also famous for Togetsukyo bridge and many people hire a bike and do cycling which I would think would be the best way of exploring the area. I would strongly recommend this as it would give faster access to all the places , many of which we could not cover by foot.


Temple complex in the middle of Bamboo grove

I think everyone was quite tired by the time we took a long walk to the JR station which would get us the train to get us back to Kyoto station. It took more than 30 minutes by train to get to Kyoto station and from there we boarded a Bullet train to take us to Osaka.

I was telling the family that there were many more lovely places to discover in Kyoto but they were least interested at this point of time. They had walked quite a bit and were quite fed up. They decided that if at all they had to walk, it would be in Osaka in the touristy Namba region. They had shopping on their mind at this stage.

Back again for Kiyomizu Dera




A couple of days later we were back at Kyoto for a short trip as I wanted to visit the Kiyomizu Dera temple which was perched up on a cliff. One had to walk up the winding path full of shops and activity to get to the temple. Till now the shrines we had visited were peaceful and serene but this temple was different. Throughout the way there were shops. Lovely souvenirs and eatables were there to tempt tourists like us. I even tried their green tea flavored softy ice cream.

The views from the temple were fabulous and many people come here at sunset time. The main hall rests on 139 giant pillars. The entire complex was buzzing and it has some nice paths going towards the forest area.

The path leading to the shrine

We were intrigued to see a Pagoda in the thick of forests and got to know that it was known as Koyasu Pagoda. Koyasu means 'easy childbirth' and the legend has it that if a pregnant woman reaches here, she would have a safe and easy childbirth.



Koyasu Pagoda
None of us had any need to go there so it was back to Osaka. If the family felt that they could relax after this short trip to Kyoto- they were terribly mistaken. Rest of the day would be spend in the Gardens of Osaka and at the lovely Osaka castle before exploring some more shopping areas of Osaka.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Nara- a city of deer and surprises

Nara is full of Deer

None of us had any expectations from Nara as we had not even read about it before visting Japan. I really didn't know what to expect out of the city and how to go around it once we reached there. All we knew was that it was near Kyoto and Osaka and it had temples including a very big statue of Buddha. We also knew that a visit here was highly recommended by all those who knew Japan.

We visited Nara the morning after arriving in Osaka. It wasn't too difficult as we took a subway from next to our hotel and it took just one change of train to get to Nara.
By now we knew that Nara was famous for the temple called T┼Źdai-ji  which housed the second largest statue of Buddha in Japan called the Daibutsu. We had already seen the third largest in Kamakura but never reached the town of Katsuyama which has the largest statue. The signboard showed that Nara park and Todai-ji were in same direction so we followed the crowds towards the right side of the station.

We hadn't yet reached the Nara park when the first surprise welcomed us in the form of several deer roaming around freely on the walking paths. People were buying snacks to feed these deer. Then I noticed that the deer were very demanding and would try to take the snacks from the hands of the tourists. I was watching the deer with fascination when I realised that something was pulling me. It was a deer which had snatched the Nara route map from my hand was gulping it down. I tried resisting but had to let go. The deer ate up the map !


Deer Deer everywhere !

The Nara park was also full of deer. The deer here are considered to be envoys of the god and are therefore protected. I had never seen a town full of domesticated deer and it was indeed a fascinating sight. Wherever we went to in Nara, there were deer all around. I wonder how people drive on the road as the deer can always run across the roads. But these deer were not only a fascination for the tourists but there was a brisk sale of food by vendors for them. It was an industry.

Soon we got used to these deer floating around the city. The parks and hillocks looked very pretty as many of them rested there.

The Todaiji Temple and the Big Buddha


Thousands line up for entering Todaiji temple


Every temple or garden we visited in Japan, we always found hundreds of school children there. It seems schools take out the kids very often to the temples and famous gardens. Nara was no exception and we saw many school children entering the Todaiji temple. This temple is one of the most famous temples of Japan and built in 752 AD, it became a very powerful temple which influenced the Government to a great extent. The wooden hall inside is the largest wooden hall in the world with a huge statue of Buddha.We didn't know all this so it came as a big surprise when told that we we were standing in front of second largest statue of Buddha in Japan in this large hall called the Daibutsuden.


The second largest statue of Buddha in Japan is at Nara
As is the tradition people write messages on tablets and paper and tie it at some designated spot around the temple. Though mostly the messages are about world peace and prosperity, it became clear that many who had written messages were no fans of Donald Trump.






India in Japan



Ashoka Pillar with a time capsule. 


The biggest surprise came when we stumbled to our national emblem (Ashoka emblem ) near Todaiji. It is right next to Todaiji and near that you can see golden pagodas. It was a real pleasing sight and we learnt that it was established in 1988 to commemorate 'thousand priest services'. A time capsule with a message was buried under it which would be opened in 2038 - which would be at the completion of 1500 years of arrival of Buddhism in Japan. 

Around Todaiji


Todaiji was just one of the shrines in Nara. There were many more and we took a round of the complex and a few temples. Nigatsudo Hall was at a height and gave a lovely view of the surroundings. Hokkedo Hall was not very far. It would be best if I describe them just with photographs. 

Hokkedo Hall

On the way to Nigatsudo Hall

A view from outside the Nigatsudo Hall

Near the walking path leading to the shrines
Inside a shrine

We saw many artists in Nara capturing the buildings on canvas.

Journey back with school kids

I had actual dozed off in the train to Osaka on the way back. As I opened my eyes I was perplexed to see dozens of small school kids ( age must be around 5-6 years) all over the compartment. My eyes looked around for a teacher or supervisor and I could see none. My daughter Sanya sitting next to me started laughing when she realised what I was looking for. She informed me that these kids were on their own and had no teacher with them.She said that she had been fascinatingly observing them for the last 20 minutes or so. 

Kids of this age traveling alone without supervision - this was a huge surprise for me as we are very protective towards our kids in India and do not allow them to travel without tight supervision. But here these kids were totally at home and seemed very used to travelling in metros and local trains.They were all in school uniforms and had identical bags. Some had made groups and were gossiping, some were reading while others were busy painting. As a stop would come, the kid standing next to the door was pulled back by others to keep him/her safe. Yet each knew when his/her stop came. They would calmly get off at their stop and bye byes were said very cutely. 

This taught us a lot about Japanese way of life. And we were impressed. 

Gossip session in train !



Even I played with a deer !
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