My mother-in-law came to Japan for one reason: gardens. Okay, maybe two reasons: to see us, and to see gardens. But mostly, I’m pretty sure, to see gardens. So after dragging her all over the biggest and busiest city in the world, we devoted a couple of days to perusing several different gardens: from flower gardens, to traditional Japanese gardens, to deer gardens (yes, I said deer, not beer, although that might have worked too), to lantern gardens, as well as visiting a ginormous Buddha along the way.
Nabana no Sato
The first place we went is Nabana no Sato, a famous garden located in our very own prefecture of Mie. This garden is famous for its flowers in the summer, and its illumination of lights in the winter (a.k.a. Christmas lights, thought no one calls them that here).
Nara is another very famous tourist spot in Japan, and it is not too far from our own city, about two or three hours by car. It is famous for Todaiji temple, which is the largest wooden building in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as for the inescapable presence of the incredibly tame resident deer. We expected Nara to be insanely busy, as we were visiting on a national holiday, but this tourist location, like others we’ve visited recently, wasn’t nearly as packed as in recent times. A highly probable reason is, in the wake of March 11, a lot of people are holding back on unnecessary travel and expenditures.
The first place we went upon arriving in Nara, which we discovered entirely by accident, was Yoshikien Garden. The garden owners offered free entry to foreign tourists, so we decided to check it out. It was beautiful, and as my father-in-law expressed, much closer to what he pictures when he thinks of a “Japanese” garden.
After the garden we had to venture through a “garden” of deer in order to reach the temple. In Nara, the deer are everywhere, they roam through all the public spaces, and it’s not uncommon to see a shopkeeper kicking a deer out of their store or restaurant. They are also incredibly tame.
Todaiji temple, as I said, is the largest wooden building in the world. It is also home to a ginormous Buddha. He’s probably not that big compared to the giant Buddhas of Thailand, but he was quite large nonetheless.
After the temple, we visited yet another garden, although calling it a “garden” may be a bit of a stretch. It was the area surrounding a shrine, which I hereby dub the “Lantern Garden” as there were so many lanterns, one could almost believe they were growing them.
After our stroll through the lantern gardens we headed home. We’d had a relaxing couple of days, but now my parents-in-law’s incubation period was up. My husband and I had to get back to work, and so the next day they would venture out on their own, visiting Osaka, Kyoto, Okayama, and some other places, before meeting up with us again in Hiroshima. I will confess we were more than a little concerned about letting them go off on their own, especially with the near-misses and stresses of our Tokyo trip so fresh in our memories. But no adventure can really be called such if one is led by the hand all the way, and so off they went.
What will happen to genkiduck’s in-laws when they are left to their own devices in Japan? Will they survive the tests and trials ahead? Will they be in Hiroshima, alive and well, to meet genkiduck and her husband in a week’s time? Stay tuned for the next episode of “The Parental Visitation” to find out!