Kamakura, or Wherein The Author Takes Way Too Many Pictures
Saturday our group went on the first of the program's two outside-of-Tokyo trips: a day in Kamakura, a fair-sized city and 13th-century capital. (The other trip is a weekend in Kyoto, which will be around the second week of July.) Since it was about ninety minutes there and back by train, we all piled into Tokyo Station bright and early at 8:30 that Saturday morning. For the record, this makes it about the 13th straight day that I haven't gotten a good night of sleep.
Kamakura and the surrounding areas have, combined, something along the lines of 40 temples and shrines, and I believe our objective was to visit as many of them as we possibly could within a single day. Our first stop was the Engakuji Temple, which had few standout buildings but gracefully crept its way along the hillside it was built on. Like most everything else we visited today, it was created in the late 1100s when the dominant shogunate reigned in Kamakura, making it the de facto capital. Supposedly the Buddha's tooth is housed in one of the more remote buildings, but we weren't allowed close enough to get a good look. (Most of the temples and shrines we'll be visiting today will be Buddhist in nature, as well.)
From there, we got back on the train and rode into town proper. After making our way through the main shopping road, Komachi Dori, we headed on to the Tsuroka Hachimangu Shrine. One of the more interesting sights of my entire stay to date--or at least from afar.
It was under renovation! This was actually a pretty common theme for the day; Engakuji Temple had one of its main structures being worked on, loud construction workers and all, while our next stop wasn't completely accessible due to who-knows-what. There was more than enough to learn about otherwise here, though. We also happened to come across a traditional Shinto wedding, which is a fairly rare occurence. Unfortunately, I didn't get many good pictures; they all processed into the main building too quickly and I didn't exactly want to stand near the doorway and go full-out gaijin.
After a lunch with Kate and one of our Kanda assistants, we walked back along the tree-lined Wakamiya Oji to the train station, which for some inexplicable reason was positively overflowing. Therefore, we decided to take an equally crowded bus to our next destination: Daibutsu.
Now on the two trips we're going on here, everybody in our group was assigned a certain location to research and give a five-minute presentation on. Two had already been done for the previous temples and shrines, but Daibutsu was all mine. This was interesting because I had found out about this maybe three days before; to compound it, I had burned my tongue on some ramen in Shinjuku the other night and it was still bothering me. (As I said, my mouth and hot liquids really do not mix.) After some minor stumbles, though, I managed to essentially get the gist across. Besides, it was worth it; personally speaking, Daibutsu was awesome.
(Incidentally, the Daibutsu has a fairly interesting history. Originally built on money that came from a mendicant priest, the first wooden Daibutsu was destroyed in a storm before being recast in bronze about 1252 AD. However, it was placed in a wooden hall; this got destroyed twice more before they just gave up and let it stand against the elements. It's over 40 feet (13.5 m) tall and is hollow; you can even go inside.) While at the Daibutsu, we got a close-up look of someone we had passed by earlier on the bus:
Our final stop for Kamakura was the Hasedera Temple. A multi-level affair whose top terrace overlooks the entire city, the Hasedera Temple was easily the most impressive of the temples and shrines we had seen that day. Unfortunately, by this point in the day pretty much everybody was tired out of their gourd. We mostly sat around, took pictures of flowers and things, and waited to leave. I also took a picture of a plethora of tiny statues which turned out to be memorials for miscarried or stillborn children. Um, my apologies.
"The Enoden Line: A wonderful small train..."- Beth Reiber, Frommer's Guide To Tokyo
Eventually, though, we got back to Kamakura Station and from there, to Tokyo. While we were in town, some of us decided to try and stop by Akihabara, the predominant electronics district of Japan. We only were able to hit up one store--but it was eight stories tall, so I don't regret much. (It may irritate certain of this blog's readers to know that I am now price-shopping for Mother 3.)
After grabbing dinner at a totally random Italian place (Denny's being much too expensive and much too health-friendly), we all went our separate ways again and passed out in our collective beds.
Vending Machine Special #3: Thorpedo!
I have no idea why an energy drink named after (Australian? English?) swimmer Ian Thorpe would be marketed in Japan and not here, but the advertising for it in Tokyo is crazy and I didn't see a bit of it before I left America. It's not that bad, though I'm not going to be writing home about... oh. Never mind.