I squeezed and mashed flakes of black and orange wax together between my palms and fingers trying to get a brown color. Across the table from me another participant wondered, “What color are a deer’s ears? And where do they go?” As she stuck her well-formed purple wax antlers onto her pink candle. Next to me another lady was dressing up a cupcake-shaped candle into the kind of thing that appears in bakery and restaurant window displays. I felt hungry just looking at it.
When I heard that the Visitor Center was offering a candle making experience I imagined something similar to what people in Europe and pioneers in 19th century America did (dipping a wick into wax over and over again until they had a candle or rolling a wick into a sheet of beeswax). Instead there were multi-colored ball and egg-shaped candles, and white and red cupcake-shaped candles and little squares of multi-colored wax to decorate them with. This being Nara a deer candle was the first idea that came to mind. The results of my effort had all the grace and finesse of something I might have crafted in preschool but the process and working with my hands was quite enjoyable.
After crafting our candles into satisfactory shape the candle making instructors dipped them into clear candle wax, fusing all the pieces together and covering them with a protective coating, before dipping them into cold water to harden the wax into permanent shape.
NARA Visitor Center & Inn
Nara Prefecture opened the NARA Visitor Center & Inn on July 23rd of this year, 2015, creating a one stop travel information shop for visitors to Nara. Friendly, knowledgeable, multi-lingual staff are on hand to answer questions, provide travel advice and help connect travelers to accommodations, there are two walls worth of travel literature (one for Nara and the other for elsewhere in Japan), and the Traveler’s Lounge with three laptop computer terminals, several tablets, free Wi-Fi and comfortable tables and chairs to sit and plan one’s next move. An ATM accepting international cards, currency exchange and free luggage storage services are also available. The Visitor Center’s crown jewels are the daily cultural experiences provided to visitors free of charge. There’s a different one every day and different seasonal activities are rotated into the schedule every month.
The nearest train station to the NARA Visitor Center & Inn is Kintetsu Nara Station. It’s about a 10-minute walk from there through the Higashi-muki and Sanjo-dori Shopping Streets to the Sarusawa Pond and the Visitor Center on the pond’s south bank.
The walk from JR Nara Station is longer taking about 20-25 minutes but very direct as visitors only have to walk straight up the Sanjo-dori Shopping Street (just outside JR Nara Station’s East Exit) to reach the Visitor Center.