Japan: The Big Buddha and Enoshima

To the south of Yokohama lies the old imperial capital of Kamakura.  This city is full of temples and shrines but is most famous for its Big Buddha (Daibutsu).  The Daibutsu was a place I really wanted to take Emily because my grandparents went there with my father in 1953, and I went there with my father in 1998.  We started by walking down Wakamiya Ōji (若宮大路), a one mile walkway from Kamakura Station to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū (鶴岡八幡宮).  It is a beautiful walkway lined with cherry blossoms and is stunning during the springtime.

On our way up to the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū (鶴岡八幡宮), we diverted over to an island with a small temple.  Together we strolled around in quiet tranquility.  It was a nice break from the throngs of crowds before we headed to main area of the shrine.  Back on the main path, we passed by individuals in yukatas and other Japanese attire.  Earlier, I mentioned that we were headed ‘up’ and I meant this literally.  The main complex sits on a hill that overlooks the entire city of Kamakura.  At the base of the hill is a structure where we watched preparations for a ceremony.  We headed up the steep stairs where Emily came across the wooden prayer boards for the first time.  She was impressed by the thousands of written prayers on the boards decorated with a symbol of either the shrine or the year. It is amazing to see so many hopes and dreams all written and left with the hope of being answered.  After 30 minutes or so of exploration, we headed back down the stairs and came upon a wedding ceremony.

Traditional music floated up from wooden instruments while a Shinto priest blessed the couple.  The bride, in her white kimono, was beaming as everyone looked on.  It was a beautiful way to end our time at this shrine.

We headed onward toward a couple more shrines and decided to visit the Kencho-ji.  This is one of the older temple complexes in Kamakura, and we spent a couple hours on the grounds; however, most of that time was spent searching for the ‘gardens.’  There were signs that pointed us to the area directly behind the main structures so we followed them and came upon a path.  The path eventually turned into a stone staircase up to another temple and before we knew it we were at the crest of ridge looking down on Kamakura with the skyscrapers of Yokohama visible in the other direction. We were happy that we climbed these stairs, but we never did find that garden.

After this little miscue, we were still feeling adventurous and, this provided us with the fortitude to make our way 3 kilometers or so to the Daibutsu on foot.  We’re not sure if this was a good or bad decision, but it provided us with a lot of entertainment and memories.  This hike took us into the woods and onto a dirt path – well mostly dirt until it turned to a slick mud.  It was an unexpected change in the terrain that we managed to navigate with no major falls.

The site on the other side was well worth the treacherous hike as we finally came to the calm Daibutsu.  When my father visited the Big Buddha in Kamakura, his family had taken a picture of him with my grandparents when they lived in Japan in the 1950s.   I reenacted that photo with my father in 1998 and again with Emily. I have a feeling this trip to the Daibutsu will not be the last time Emily and I visit.  We relaxed on the grounds and watched families admire the statue.

After all the walking and hiking (Emily nicknamed that day “leave no stair unclimbed”), we were more than ready for dinner. On the train ride back, Emily and I hopped off the train to see the seaside town and island of Enoshima and get food.  The town and the island are connected by a causeway and on a clear day one can see Mt. Fuji rising above the water like The Wave. We took our time navigating the twisting paths with shops that grew from its sides over centuries.  They were lined with all types of goods and Japanese treats.  We stopped by one to eat grilled sea urchin (we think), but I was not full and needed some ramen.  We returned to the mainland to find a restaurant and decided to use the crowd presence as a measure of tastiness. This place served as Emily’s introduction to an automated menu where orders are placed by purchasing a ticket for the desired meal.  I think it was our lack of cash that kept us from financing the shop for months to come, but it was both delicious and very satisfying.   It was a fantastic way to finish off the great day in Kamakura and Enoshima.

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~ by Rob Page III on November 29, 2010.

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