Today we went to Nara, home of the famouse deers of Nara which circulate the park and temples as if it is any other pasture and are hand fed by the visitors who come to town, where we went to the temple where Nara's Great Buddha resides. It's huge. Not as big as the one near my apartment, but but grand and very very old. The temple it's housed in is one of the most gorgeous temple's I've ever seen in my life. Perhaps it's my favorite of all the temples I've seen in Japan and also in Thailand. As we went in, we asked a group of Japanese boys if they'd take a picture for us which they did, very meticulously, worried that it wasn't good enough, but I told them it was great and thanked them and then they stopped us a moment later and asked if we would take a picture with them. I said, "All of us together?" and they said yes, so we did that, aide by another random Japanese stranger, this time an older gentleman, who was very enamored with the cross cultural picture taking and happy to help. We lit incense at the temple with the boys and then went into the temple to gape slack-jawed at the Buddha. This is the third Great Buddha in Japan I've seen. I think there is perhaps only one other I haven't seen yet, but I may be wrong. I love the Great Buddhas. They're always awe-inspiring things to gaze at for a while.
The other very cool thing in this temple are these huge pillars inside that are part of its support system. They're incredibly large and made of wood, and one of them has a tiny little squarish hole at its base which, if you are able to pass through it, is said to be a sign that you can reach enlightenment easily. Or, err, something like that. My guidebook is in my bag at the moment. Anyway, little kids pass through it easily, which is the joke. It looks like this:
And then afterwards it looks like this:
Anyway, lots of kids go through it, and some Japanese women did too, though some needed help from their kids to be pulled out the rest of the way. Jody and her mom and sister wanted me to give it a try. I said I thought it was impossible. Then the high school boys helped each other do it and Jody and her mom and sister kept saying to do it, and I kept circling the base and thinking, nope, impossible. It really is tiny and I'm a bit claustrophobic. And I had other reasons I could think of to not try (I had a jacket tied around my waist, I'd have to take that off, oh and I bought this really nice new man bag which I'd have to have someone hold and I didn't want to be seperated from it, and my watch I didn't want to scratch if I went through, etc. etc.) and then I heard this Japanese fellow tell his friend in Japanese that gaijin can't fit through the hole and I thought, Oh no he didn't just say what I just heard, and then I thought, This man's going to make me take my new man bag off, and then I did just that, and my jacket, and my watch, and gave them over to Jody and her mom and sister and got in line behind the other kids and when it came my turn I went through that hole like a thread through the eye of a needle and pulled myself out the other side without any problems. Much cheering and clapping ensued, which then inspired Paula, Jody's sister to go through the hole as well. She also succeeded, although her pants were pulled halfway down by the time she got out and she got a bruise on one arm from squeezing. An older Japanese gentleman clapped his hands when Paula was done and said, "Sugoi na!" (amazing! great! wow! sort of sentiment) but I think he clapped because Paula was still pulling up her pants.
We then got our fortunes from a monk at the front of the temple by shake a canister of sticks with numbers engraved on them. The numbers match a corresponding fortune and when I pulled out mine, the monk said Oh no no no, you don't want that one, and made me put it back and gave me a different canister and said, this is the one you should use. The first one was obviously probably the worst luck fortune you could get, but when I pulled from the other canister I got the best fortune possible. Paula was mad because the monk didn't tell her to put her stick back in as she was pulling it out and she was apparently told she was going to die or something and so she had to tie her fortune to the bad fortune post outside, where you can leave your bad fortune behind you.
There will be pictures of hole crawling in the future, but they're on Jody's and Jody's mom camera's so will come later. For now, all I can say is maybe that hole is too little for a lot of gaijin, Mister Stereotyper of Foreigners, but this gaijin got through and perhaps will reach Nirvana before you do.