We had decided that we could have a few days somewhere quiet, before the craziness of the International Puzzle Party began. Alice chose Nara, a town about an hour to the east of Osaka, on the edge of a park covering 1100 acres, famous for its ubiquitous deer, along with shrines, temples and pagodas. In 2010 it was celebrating its 1300th anniversary. It was a truly wonderful and inspired choice. The tranquillity of the park, combined with the politeness and elegance of the population made it a memorable start to this delightful holiday.
It will come as no surprise to hear that I took over 400 photographs on our first day, within half a mile of our hotel. Nara Park is littered with over 1300 ancient lanterns, of all shapes and sizes. Twice a year these are lit, and it must be a moving and splendid sight. We were amused to see several elderly people employed removing moss from the lanterns. As we were walking along one popular path across the centre of the park I saw several people standing at the foot of a large tree. I saw a movement, which I took to be a squirrel, but on closer examination it was a green snake, about 6 ft long and about the same diameter as a cucumber. We assumed it was harmless, although there were no signs, at least not in English, telling us about the snake. We saw a second one the following day up in the hills on the hiking trails.