The parental visitation, part three: Gardens, deer, and Buddha’s big house

Yoshikien Garden in Nara

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).

My mother- and father-in-law posing in Nabana no Sato. The beaming smile on my mother-in-law’s face says she is in her element and couldn’t be happier.

Nabana no Sato’s seasonal feature at the time was tulips, and they had fields and fields of them, the most tulips I’ve ever seen in my life at once!

Pink tulips!

My Dutch heritage causes me to love both orange and tulips. Thus, orange tulips are the epitome of awesomeness as far as flowers are concerned. Incidentally, my late grandma adored orange tulips, so I can’t help remembering her whenever I see them. I’m pretty sure if she could help design the landscaping in heaven, it would look like this.

Flower giraffe!

Flower panda!

Father-son bonding? Or a little photography competition?

The entire place was packed with people, yet for some reason this particular bridge was empty at the moment. It looked very peaceful in the midst of hordes of tourists. Not a moment after I snapped this, a group wandered onto the bridge, breaking the serenity of the moment.

Happy couple in a field of flowers picture!


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.

Todaiji temple as seen from the gates, the largest wooden structure in the world.

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.

A scene from Yoshikien Garden

Moss 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.

The deer weren’t super interested in us, since we didn’t by them snack crackers, but they let us pet them anyways.

The smart deer were chillin in the shade, and gave us a look that said, “can’t you tell we’re over here because we don’t want to hang out with the tourists? If we weren’t so comfortable, we’d come over there and eat your cameras!”

As a native of BC, Canada, I have had wildlife awareness drilled into me at a young age, but apparently that is not true of everyone. This informative sign is written in four languages, which in Japan is not all that common. The Nara deer are very tame, but if you Google “Nara Deer Attack” your search won’t come up empty.

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.

This is the giant Buddha. To envision how large he really is, remember that the ceiling hanging just above his head is the ceiling of the world’s largest wooden structure!

The whole in this pillar is reportedly the same size as the giant Buddha’s nostril. If you can fit through this nostril, supposedly you’ll gain enlightenment in the next life. Seems a little size-ist if you ask me!

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.

A view of the shrine gate through the lanterns.

A path through the lantern garden lined with… lanterns!

A verifiable field of lanterns, further proof lanterns are grown, not made.

We’re inside the shrine courtyard now, and surprise! More lanterns! These are a different species of lantern, I would venture to guess.

Fun with perspective! Even more shiny shrine-y lanterns are on the left.

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!


4 thoughts on “The parental visitation, part three: Gardens, deer, and Buddha’s big house

  1. I loved reading about all your adventures with lanterns to light the way. Your photos were incredible & the humour delightful. It sounds so strange to read about my sister & her husband as the “mother and father-in-law”. Yup they are!
    I am glad to know you all had a wonderful time together & that your were brave enough to let them go off on their own.
    Hope you enjoy the honey I sent with them They did give it to you?!? Hugs, Auntie Madelaine

    • Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! Yes, we definitely received the honey, it is very delicious (or perhaps I should say “was” as the jar is almost empty), thanks so much, it very thoughtful!!!

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