Thursday, December 4, 2014


Part of our class this week included an introduction to the Japanese railway system. We looked at maps and planned routes yesterday, and were dumped at the nearest railroad station this morning.  Our group decided to go to Kamakura.

As a former capital city of Japan, Kamakura has history.  It has lots of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, plus it has a beach. Sounds like a pretty good spot to play tourist to me!

Getting there wasn't that bad.  I expected the railway system to be terribly confusing, but it was surprisingly easy to navigate. And the couple of times that we did get confused, there were plenty of Japanese people willing to play charades and help us figure out where to go.

Our first stop was the Great Buddha. 
This statue dates back to the mid-13th century. Originally, a hall was built to house the Great Buddha, but a storm destroyed it.  So they rebuilt Buddha's hall, but it was damaged by yet another storm. They rebuilt it a 3rd time, but it was washed away by a tsunami.  They took that as a clue that the Great Buddha preferred the great outdoors, and he's been sitting in open air ever since.

Anyway, there are some pretty pathways outside the viewing area and a little shrine. Cool to see, but we weren't as taken away by those as we were by the Hase-dera Temple. 
The temple itself is beautiful, but there was some construction being done so I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise. The grounds around the temple itself were the most impressive part. There were perfectly manicured gardens everywhere we looked, koi ponds, and many of the trees were still donning their autumn-red leaves. And the incense! Our instructors warned us there would be lots of "holy smoke," as they called it, and they were right. The air smelt rich and smokey, which couldn't be any more perfect for a chilly day like today.
There were rows and rows of these little statues, which were placed on temple grounds by people who were mourning the loss of a child. It's really depressing, but I love how each and every little statue looks at peace.

The view of the bay wasn't bad:
We had to climb way too many stairs to get to this point, but it was worth it.

We were hoping we'd have time to explore more of Kamakura, but we had to get the kids from childcare. I'm sure we'll go back because there is so much in this area that we didn't get to see. Until next time, Kamakura!

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