One entrance is marked with a red “torii”, “Ichi-no-mochi”, The First Gate of Shinto, was first built in 836. “Nara Kōen”, Nara Park, was established around 1810 with a few temples and shrines dotted around this central park. Under the canopy of tall trees in the forest- like park, sika deer roamed freely in the cool environment. The deer, numbering over one thousand, in the unfenced park are said to be scared based on historical legends of the then newly built capital of Heijō- kyō, Old Nara. People fed the deer with deer crackers, “Shika- senbei”. Thousands of stone lanterns, “tachi- doro”, encrusted with lime green moss lined the winding street. Under a shed, several brightly labelled sake barrels were stacked up. The leisure walk brought us to a shrine.
Stone steps led the way towards a vermillion painted entrance. Some lovely and colourful posters depicting certain characters brought some colour to this green landscape. We passed another temple. The lines of stone lanterns add an element of a spiritual environment. With this element, the walk in this park was quite poignant. This forest is scared and is reflected with the ancient trees, some twisted with buttress roots spreading wide. It was certainly not just a walk in a park!
We reached Kasuga Wakimiya Shrine via a flight of stone steps. Wakamiya-jinja is a branch shine of Kasuga Taisha Shrine and founded in 1135. It was quiet and hardly any people around. The straw thatched roof added an appeal of spiritualism in this ambient wooded hill. At one end of the building, a wall of pink heart or love shaped “ema” hung on a wall. The deities enshrined here are for married couple, so prayers made here are mostly for happy marriage and fortune in matters of love.
Hence, the “ema”. Water sprouted off a dragon’s mouth into vessels. Bamboo ladles are placed here for worshippers to wash their hands and face. A tranquil place indeed! Beyond this shrine, a path leads uphill into the mountains to a few smaller shrines. We exited the shrine via another flight of stone steps lined, on both sides, with numerous stone lanterns. This path led towards the most celebrated shrine in this park, Kasuga Taisha.