Nara was the capital of Japan long before Tokyo, and back before Kyoto. It is currently celebrating the 1,300 year anniversary of that time with a special event. Billions of Yen have been spent reconstructing two of the buildings that once stood in what subsequently became rice fields. The government bought back the land and won World Heritage designation for the site. The remains will stay underground, however, because that is the best way of preserving them. It's unfortunate that a modern private railway line runs through the centre of the former capital, between the building and the gate that have been constructed. The throne where the Emperor would have sat looks to the south. There are mountains to all other directions.
On arrival it appeared there was no chance of a tour in English, because I'd missed the tour time by 30 minutes or so, and there wasn't another one for a couple of hours. But one of the kimono-clad officials decided she would get changed into trainers, shorts and t-shirt and be a private guide. Keiko is her name. She's retired, her husband is 62 years old and he loves rugby. He visits New Zealand frequently to watch the All Blacks play. He will, of course, be there for the duration of the Rugby World Cup in 2010. Keiko likes tramping (which is a NZ word for walking in the countryside or up hills). She has done the Routeburn, and similar walks in the English Lake District. She speaks at length and with great pride about her own country and is an enthusiastic guide.