The Battle of Big Buddha- The Clampitts invade Nara

The day Grandmama, the Offspring and I embarked upon the trip from Kyoto, Japan to Nara began like all other site seeing days- breakfast, back pack loading, coffee chugging, whipping the Offspring in order to get them out of bed, ending with the mad dash to the lobby for an attempted  “On Time” Departure. Todai-ji Shrine- home of the Giant Buddha- and World Heritage site, starred as the main attraction for the day’s events. All were briefed on the usual suspects and expected standards for any Buddhist temple- imposing and fierce of face Guardians at the gate, usually the Gods of Thunder and Wind, allowing entrance to both the mortal and immortal, and a location contained within providing healing of various ills.

Little did I know my hurried and cursory review of the Zen gardens followed immediately by unadulterated materialistic admiration of Buddhist symbols for the sake of adding sites to my “How Many World Heritage Sites have I visited,” list the previous day would raise the hackles of those destined to protect the sanctity of this site.

More focused on the uniqueness of the warrior god’s belly button and the male model on whom he was surely based, I failed to notice the raised hand warning us not to proceed. Either that or he was requesting a hose to rinse off the dust accumulated since 745 when the temple complex was erected.

He alerted a special brand of messenger to our presence as we passed.

The alarm now raised, the Sika, special messengers to the gods and ever-present in Nara, prowled the premises in search of the intruders with the single purpose of  blocking our entrance to the most sacred site and home of Nara Daibutsu, or Birushana, the world’s largest Buddha.

The Sika have been known to attack those without pure hearts be they human, jack- a-lope, or cane fisted.

The Sika isolated Offspring #1 in an attempt to scatter our herd thus leaving him unprotected against the now blood thirsty beasts.

Offspring #2, still mad at her brother for not sharing his food on the 8 hour school bus ride home after the earthquake, hesitated to assault the Sika now swarming the defenseless teenager thinking this the ultimate pay back. Grandmama shot a most terrifying “thin lips” look of disapproval to prod her out of the vengeful revelry she was enjoying- her brother now surrounded and alone. Thin Lips scared everyone on the grounds, momentarily stunning the mob of messengers thus aiding Offspring #2 in wrestling the Sika to the ground. Her iron grip so tight on the antlers of the Sika, more from fear of her grandmother than sympathy on behalf of the sibling, she tore one clean off causing the Sika to lie down in supplication and recognition of  her mighty force.

Although defeated, the Sika spread the message that the Clampitts, whose only interest was checking off a list, buying kitsch from the gift shop, obtaining blog material, or posing for photo opportunities, were almost to the temple. Oblivious to the  supernatural forces conspiring against our entry, we approached the largest wooden structure in the world. (The oldest being another site in Nara- Horyu-ji Temple)

Sitting in wait of our arrival was the next deity. Following the instructions written below his grimacing face, all Clampitts and Grandmama performed the healing ritual to injured body parts or maladies by rubbing the statue in corresponding locations. At my touch, Binzuru’s shaku – sceptre – began to glow, a sudden wind caused the red rags representing healthy babies to flutter, and one of the greatest psychic of Buddha’s time turned his eyes downward on our group.

“Ouisar-san, you are a bad, bad girl… In your race checking a contrived list of sites esteemed by man you have failed to appreciate the beauty, spirituality, and solemnity of these ancient homes. You have angered the guardians commissioned to protect Nara Daibutsu. You must prove your worth by completing an impossible task capable of disproving the insincerity within your heart, or suffer banishment from all Kyoto and Nara World Heritage sites which is your fate.”

He was messing with my list. Those were fighting words.

He threw down the gauntlet –or a red shower cap in this case.

Was this a ‘too much time with one’s mother’ hallucination brought on by the sheer stress of prolonged contact with Thin Lips?

“QUIET! Go in the temple. Complete the impossible task – bother me not again!”

“What task?” I questioned.

Binzuru thundered,

“LEAVE ME,”

I consider myself straight forward and direct and always appreciative when a similar sentiment is reciprocated. I found his call to action lacking in clarity and short on specifics.

Given the dire circumstances and my inability to complete puzzles or solve riddles, I needed help. Thin Lips was the only member of our party mean enough to take on supernatural forces and survive to tell the tale.

We shouted slogans to get fired up, pumped our fists in the air, sealed blood oaths to protect our group, and concluded with a jumping chest bump- an old woman and stay at home mom- now pitted against the gods in a fight to the death.

It started immediately. No sooner had we stepped in the great hallway then one of the temple guardians showed himself.

At first I was confused by this master of deception as to the actual locality of his face for his cod piece also sported an evil look.

He was formidable- a huge, terrifying sight. He readied his giant paint brush for the impending battle but the experienced Grandmama was quick to respond. She led with the most powerful weapon in her arsenal, one used to subdue three teenage girls during the 80’s- the double whammy, first a threat to “snatch a kink in his head” followed by the Thin Lips evil stare- he froze in fear. His paint brush a child’s toy versus the thin lips. He hid behind a giant pillar.

A loud organ playing a sinister tune alerted our attention to the next trial. Two more deities on the war path approached. I drew the wooden samurai sword bought in the gift shop. I called upon the energy reserve stored in the extra 10 pounds of fat gained from eating ramen noodles every day in order to persevere throughout the battle.  For a moment the only sound was the swishing of my wooden sword cutting through the air as it sliced back and forth, dazzling them with my swashbuckling skill, taunting them to move forward. They lunged in unison, I  responded nimble as a cat by cleaving their heads, leaving only their anguished looks of surprise behind as witness to defeat.

Further in the depths of the Temple we crept, alert for the mysterious task. It was then Offspring #1 spotted what was most surely the momentous assignment. Several tourists stood stupefied before a pillar, several feet thick. Realization of the task dawned on me and I screamed in terror- one of us had to squeeze through the hole in the pillar, known as the Healing Pillar, which is the size of the Big Buddha’s nostril. A successful emergence would guarantee not only entry to Heaven, but proof that my heart was true.

Only I didn’t fit inside the nasal cavity.

I would have to sacrifice something of great value to avoid going through myself. My first-born. I complied by volunteering him immediately and without further thought. Others wailed and gnashed their teeth as Offspring #1 entered the giant nostril. At first it appeared as if he would be stuck for life, his arms pinned to his side within the nostril, unable to move forward or back. The other tourists, Grandmama, Offspring #2 and I cheered when his head popped through the other side. Well, Grandmama and I did, OF#2 seemed disappointed.

A final deity appeared issuing a trophy in recognition of this great achievement.

I was free.

Free to enjoy the site of the Giant Buddha.

He was truly a “giant.”

  • Height: 14.98 m (49.1 ft)
  • Face: 5.33 m (17.5 ft)
  • Eyes: 1.02 m (3.3 ft)
  • Nose: 0.5 m (1.6 ft)
  • Ears: 2.54 m (8.3 ft)

The statue weighs 500 tonnes (550 short tons).

Exhausting but successful.

I checked off my list.

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32 Responses to The Battle of Big Buddha- The Clampitts invade Nara

  1. My-Tien says:

    The warning sign of the deer attacking people is hilarious, “butt”

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  2. Dana says:

    Yowza! I particularly enjoyed the deer warning sign, myself. “Butt”, indeed! 😉
    Way to sacrifice your first born, by the way. Smooth move, Emily!

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  3. That trial by nostril looks daunting! But, my question is this–if Offspring #1 won’t be making the trip to Kentucky, just who shall we sacrifice to any similar challengel here in the Bluegrass? Now, I don’t happen to know of any World Heritage Sites here, certainly not one boasting a giant nostril, but I’m sure if there’s one to be had, you will manage to track it down and get us all there on time! Can’t wait to see you—————-
    Kathy

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  4. Lu says:

    Hilarious story telling! Loved reading every word of it, especially the “Thin Lips” snippets, who sounds terrifyingly like my mother… She doesn’t just have evil steely eyes – she is Medusa…
    I’m feeling quite sorry for the single-antlered Sika though… poor thing!

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  5. glitterlady says:

    Your offspring #1 (I believe is the one who squished through the opening in the pillar) Now is granted with wonderful good luck, because it is said that those who can pass through the opening are blessed… No wonder there are so many eating disorders around these days. All in the pursuit of lady luck. I went to the temple a couple years ago and unfortunately my hips would not allow me to be granted with any temple luck.

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    • amblerangel says:

      My fat head wouldn’t even go in…. It was funny watching because very few people attempted going through. The pillar is just huge- but the hole seems to shrink the closer one gets to it! Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. Tori Nelson says:

    Do you think they sell those giant nostrils at Costco? Thinking this might be the perfect Time Out in our house 🙂

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  7. Fio says:

    What imagination!! Too funny after just having been there myself. After touching all those deers, I gave my son a wipie to clean his hands… after a couple of minutes I asked him, where did you put the wipie? Do you want to take a guess? Yes, in this most sacred japanese temple/world heritage site, he THREW THE WIPIE IN THE GRASS. Kill me!

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    • amblerangel says:

      KIDS- on the other hand, there probably wasn’t a garbage can around as everything is recycled!

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      • I cannot tell you how many times I’ve carried the smallest scrap of paper receipt, wrapper, etc. because I would fail to notice the recycling bins when they were conveniently located and handy. Most times, I am where they are NOT located and carry it back to my wife’s parent’s house. It gets recycle only once it has got to travel around a bit inside my pockets.

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      • amblerangel says:

        I completely understand! I don’t know how the place stays so clean with no garbage cans….As your pockets go, my purse goes- it is my on the street garbage can.

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  8. Ashley says:

    lol… Well written. This actually reminded me of a friend who visited Nara last year and she was nearly run over by a stampede of deer.

    I also liked the part about sacrificing your first-born… hahaha

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  9. Your interpretations are hilarious! Those deer look so harmless though – are they really that vicious?

    Tell Offspring #1 he’s in trouble. If Offspring #2 still harbors a grudge over the food incident, she’ll likely never forget it. I was recently reminded by my brother, that as a 5-year old I traded one of his favourite toy cars for something I wanted. Needless to say that was a long time ago . . .

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  10. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words) says:

    I can’t believe I missed this post. I love Nara and I love your interpretation of the dangerous adventure. I cannot wait to hear about your Kentucky visit as well. Safe travels.

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  11. Piper Bayard says:

    Hi Emily. Love this story, and how you show that “an old woman and a stay at home mom” can conquer anything. Thanks for the visit to Japan. 🙂 Your blog is always one of my favorites.

    Like

    • amblerangel says:

      Thanks Piper! The blog love is mutual as I always come over to get a good laugh or when Holmes goes to town- a new idea. I’m glad you enjoy and thanks for coming over.

      Like

  12. Texanne says:

    Now you’ve done it. I came here after reading your comment on Piper’s blog in which you quoted your mother as opining “No guts no glory.” I just had to meet a person who was reared by a woman like that.
    So, I came to read your blog.
    Now I am a fan. You have been warned. 🙂

    Like

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