This is Jackie Lareau, recipient of the Estelle Sigur Grant for Japanese Language Study in Japan. It's been a while since my last update and I've done quite a bit of adventuring now that we've settled into the summer, so I'll give you a peek at all the highlights.
One of the most exciting events of the last few months was the weekend trip to Kyoto and Nara organized by CIEE, the exchange program handling my semester abroad, for all of the exchange students. We spent two days in Kyoto, which was the former imperial capital for over one thousand years before the capital was moved to Tokyo. As a result, the city is extremely rich with historic, traditional, and cultural treasures, especially with its 2,000+ Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
With a couple friends of mine, we were able to have an action-packed day full of sightseeing around the city to see as much as possible. First we visited the Arashiyama bamboo forest, where we took plenty of pictures perfect for computer desktops.
However, the coolest thing about Todai-ji is probably the countless deer that roam the grounds and call it their home, thanks to their sacred status and generous tourists who feed them special "deer crackers" that you can buy from any vendor in the area. You're perfectly free to approach and pet the deer, although with caution because there's a good chance they'll go nosing into your bag and try to take the crackers by themselves. They're friendly enough to pose for photos, though.