Published: September 27th 2008September 26th 2008
The international community center at Waseda took 20 students to Kamakura, about an hour and a half out of Tokyo. I was fortunate enough to get in. The trip was absolutely wonderful. More than half of the students were Japanese so I got to embarrass myself for the whole day. Practice is starting to pay off though, just by talking as much as I can and reading every street sign, advertisement, and menu I'm seeing and hearing things coming out of the woodwork. We saw the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, the most important shinto shrine in the area, the Hase-dera, a complex of many Buddhist temples and shrines, and the Daibutsu, the 112 ton bronze Buddha built in the 1200s. Much like THAT intersection, its THAT giant Buddha. Unfortunately, in many of the temples I couldn't take pictures. In between all of that we had time for lunch and a walk down a street that gave free samples of rice crackers, mame (bean/peanut products) and tsukemono (pickles). I brought back some tsukemono for the family.
The entrance to the Hachiman-gu ran the whole length of Kamakura's main street, and had two massive gates (Oo-torii). Gates indicate shinto shrines as opposed to a
Buddhist temple. The shrine was on a mountain and we had quite a few stairs to climb up. Before going in we washed our hands in a special pool of running water. Some others drank from it but that's just nasty. Inside of the temple was incense and an alter where you could pay to be let in by a shinto priest. We did not go in, but threw a coin into the special pot and made a wish, as per tradition. You can see all of Kamakura from the top of the shrine.
Next was food and shopping. I picked up some kuro-mame, black soybeans to snack on, nori and garlic tsukemono, tried sweet potato ice cream (sweet potatoes in Japan are awesome and they use them in everything), and for lunch had cold udon and tempura. Everything was great and I learned how to say free sample (shishoku).
The Hase-dera is one of the most famous Buddhist temples and contains a large, 11-headed sculpture of Buddha and shrines to other deities. Again, few pics from inside but we did see this awesome small shrine that had rows and rows of buddhas around it. One room had
a large wheel in it that the students all took turns turning. According to tradition, one turn means you learn everything in the sutra contained inside of the wheel. Go figure.
Daibutsu was last. I got some good pics of the big guy. There really wasnt much to do except take your pictures and leave. Daibutsu was originally gold plated and indoors but a tsunami made it outside and tarnished in the 15th century. There is some gold left on right cheek and I was told that there are 626 balls making up Buddha's hair.
There are more photos below