Wednesday, August 24, 2005

lovely kamakura

mike and i spent the day in kamakura, which is located under an hour away from tokyo. it is also conveniently accessible from a regular city JR train that leaves from ikebukuro, the big station that i go through everyday to get to the house here.

we wanted to leave early but made it out slightly later than expected, due to us bein g tired. it really seems that i can't catch up with my constant going to bed late. and so i think that tomorrow will be a day spent quietly here at the house.

we started our tour of temples with the kencho-ji temple, which was quite nice, free but a little simple. we did grab some great shots though of lotus buds and seed buds. right behind the temple we found a road that went deeper into the forest, to what looked like could be another temple so we decided to go for it. we saw an amazing bamboo forest with the biggest bamboo stalks that i had ever seen. we then started walking up the stairs towards the temple, which turned out lead to the top of the mountain. was passed multi-coloured salamander, gigantic spiders, wasps and butterflies. the temple at the top of the stairs, hansobo, was very plain with nothing much to see except for cool statues of warriors with eagle beaks and wings. more stairs lead to the real summit, and the view up there was fantastic! you could see the entire city all the way to the ocean. spectacular. and then i realized... we're walking all the way to the ocean! that's far away!

next was the zen jochi-ji temple (Y150). i still do not understand what made it a "zen" temple but it was quite different than other temples that i've visited, with a great garden path around the temple, two cemetery, bamboo groves and caves and holes carved in the rock walls containing different images of buddha. it was really refreshing to see something so different and the caves and enclaves were really neat to look at. there seemed to be a path right through one of the rock walls but we couldn't see where it was going or what was in there.

from jochi-ji, we hopped on the daibutsu hiking course, a 2.2 km long trail that links both temples through the woods over the mountains. it was a good hike, and i really enjoyed being one of the only person there. just like at hansobo, it was great to feel like i was somewhere that only a handful of tourist visits.

getting off the trail and finding the daibutsu (big buddha) was not so easy. signs were pretty vague and so we logically decided to follow a bus that had "daibutsu" written on it. obviously, we assumed that this was the bus' destination but apparently busses in kamakura work opposite to common logic and the name was of where the bus was coming from. we ended up well over 1km away from the temple before asking around and realizing we had to go back to where we came from.

the daibutsu (Y200) was really great. all out of copper, it's impressive and beautiful! it's so big, it is really imposing. the statue has survived typhoons, earthquakes, wars and fires without being damaged. it has to be one of the very few things in japan that is the original. one cool thing is that the entire statue is empty inside, so for an extra Y20 you can climb inside the buddha. we couldn't do it because that option closes at 4:30pm and we arrived there about 15 minutes too late. i gather that it must be pretty dark in there and boring, but how cool would it be to be able to say "i've been inside buddha"??? i took tons of pictures from bunch of different angles. of course!

after the daibutsu we headed out to yuigahama beach. apparently there's a lot of surfing here in kamakura, so i was really hopping to find a local surf shop and buy a t-shirt for david. but of course, this being japan, surf shops are not really local. they sell american brands, not cool stuff with their name on it. they had shirts with a local dry suit brand, but that was it. and at one place, shirts were all about Y7000. how crazy is that! i would never pay that much for a t-shirt!

anyhow, the beach was dirty and unappealing. it wasn't a beautiful beach as we are used to back in canada or the states. and beach culture is different here, there are hardly any shops and restaurants along the beach, so you don't get this atmosphere you get elsewhere. but the sea was packed with surfers everywhere, all waiting for a wave. the waves were of good size but they kept breaking wrong so nobody was really able to catch a wave and ride it long. we managed to find a place that was selling beer so we watched people surf while drinking a surprisingly good-sized beer for japan [in japan, drinks are usually small and glasses and cups are never full].

then it was back to here, to run away from horribly menacing grey skies over the sea.


the highlight of my day was the blueberry ice cream we ate right after the first temple. yummy! i don't think i've ever had blueberry ice cream before.


at kencho-ji i ran into a lady from calagary who has been here for 2 months on missionary work. she seemed really nice and agreed with me that temples in japan are simply incredible. but then, she said something really odd. she said that the temples here are empty ~ they need to be filled with god's love. how ethno and religious centric!


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