Angela was meant to come to Japan in the spring break with the boys, and had desperately wanted to go to Nara. When her knee surgery/blood clot meant she couldn't come, the boys and I nixed Nara from our itinerary. However, I am glad that we went this time! We only really spent a day there - the Lonely Planet recommends 2 but given that most of Nara's sites are outside ones and that it is so hot we really just picked the highlights.
At our hostel we had a palace! We had an 8-bed futon room for the 4 of us, so we were really able to spread out! It was a little out of the centre of town, but so was the other option, so we just had to take buses in and out for sightseeing and dinner. We spent most of our full day in Nara at the park. we started out by eating our breakfast along way away from the overly friendly deer! There were little carts from which you buy biscuits to feed the deer, but as soon as someone had purchased the plastic wrapped biscuits the deer would attempt to eat the biscuits plastic and all, and then the person's clothes, and bag! The other 3 girls all petted the deer and ended up with smelly hands, so I just looked at them!
In the park there are a lot of little temples and shrines. We stopped to look at the outside of most, but only went into Todaiji - which is where the big buddha is housed. The buddha is about 20m high, and there are a few other mega statues in the building as well. There is a piece of wood, like an oversized tree stump that has a hole the size of the buddha's nostril cut through it. You are meant to wiggle through and then get good luck! Of course, little kids were doing it left, right and centre, but Angela saw an adult manage it!
The temple I think is one of the largest wooden structures in Japan, if not the world, and it is amazing how long it has been standing - given most sites in Japan are concrete refurbishments following WWII bombing or earthquake damage!
In Nara I managed to introduce the girls to some more Japanese food - Omrice which is an omelette wrapped around fried rice and Umeshu, a plum wine! Also, for dinner on the 2nd night in Nara we found an Italian restaurant and I had pizza with capers, anchovies and OLIVES! I love olives... I think I have already mentioned it many times, but the first thing I eat back in Australia will be olives! And I'm not fussy, I will eat any and ALL types of olives! Hint, hint!
Nara was much bigger and more industrial/urban than I had expected, though the park does take up a large proportion of the downtown/central area. However, when you get off the train it does just feel like most cities in Japan.