Day Four — At The Feet Of The Daibutsu
6:00 AM – Wake up and blog Day 3
9:30 AM – HEADING OUT FOR KAMAKURA
We all met up down stairs in the lobby to go on the one tour I really wanted to go on. The temples and The Great Buddha (Japanese: daibutsu) of Kamakura. This photo was taken after the little bus scheduling snafu we had. While at the train station, we met our tour guide Mr. Murofushi. He insisted that we call him “Fish-i” if we can’t remember Murofushi. I call him Murofushi-san, he was very impressed with my pronunciation. At least, this is what he tells me.
“Hello everyone, My name is Mr. Murofushi. Moo-row-foo-shee. Hello and I will be tour guide today to Kamakura.”
“Ah, hai! Murofushi-san, ohayo gozaimasu!” I replied. Sam (JASGP organizer) smiled. Murofushi-san quickly turned towards my brother and I and the three of us bowed to one another. Sam smiled again. Murofushi-san and Sam begin to discuss the day’s excursion in Japanese to one another, and I did my best to listen in to see what I could pickup. As per usual in Japan, the wait for the train is short lived, and we were finally on our way to Kamakura.
This photo is something that Murofushi-san had pointed out right be fore we left the first station we transferred trains from. I will have to try and find the name of this statue, so I can post it here. But, this is something you don’t see back home. Enormous statues just jutting up into the sky. We finally pull into Hase, which is where two of the three temples we’ll got to see were.
10:00 AM – HASE, KAMAKURA
Now, THIS looks like a town that time has almost forgotten. The buildings look as if you’d expect to see a shogun or feudal warlord walk out of one of the shops. The shop in the photo above is displaying (not necessarily selling) hand made kabuki masks. From what Murofushi-san was explaining, that some of the best masks used in kabuki (if not all) are hand made ones. We head further up the street towards our first temple: Hasedera.
10:17 AM – HASEDERA TEMPLE
When you first walk up to the front gate of Hasedera, you’ll be greeted by hand-trimmed trees, and wood that looks like it’s never aged. It’s something that you must see in person to truly appreciate. I quickly ask Murofushi-san if there are areas in which they don’t allow video or photos, and he advises me that there are, and that he would let me know when we’ll be at one. See, back home... they’d either let me know before we got there, or they’d let me make the mistake of taking a photo when I wasn’t supposed to. Even if I had asked. Trust me it’s happened to me before. This temple was so peaceful and beautiful, even though there were people around.
There’s something about the way the Japanese approach gardening. It’s as if they’ve coaxed nature to move or flow in certain ways, but all without looking like it was man-made or that natures’ flow was uninterrupted... ever. Lush, green plants are everywhere.
Hand crafted statues of Buddha are rampant here. The craftsmanship is just breathtaking, as well as inspiring. You almost want to touch it to see if the statue would awaken!
An offering box. Note the stone relief at the bottom of this statue. It still looks freshly done.
Hasedera’s Temple Bell. It’s only rung on special occasions.
One of many wonderful views from Hasedera.
12:00 PM – FACE TO FACE WITH THE DAIBUTSU AT KOTOKUIN TEMPLE
Those of you who know me, or have talked to me in recent months may remember me discussing a statue that we were going to visit on this trip. This is that very same statue. This is the Daibutsu.
Standing at nearly 45 feet tall, and weighing in at 93 tons, the Great Buddha of Kamakura (Daibutsu in Japanese) is considered to be on of the strongest spirited Buddhas in Japan. This is due to a story of a tsunami that wiped out the town and the temple this Buddha was built inside of in 1498. The only thing left afterwards was THIS STATUE. Now THAT’S strength!
This Buddha is made of bronze, and is completely hollow. According to Murofushi-san, the Daibutstu has been there at least over 1,000 years. Wikipedia gives dates that would say otherwise. From the looks of this mammoth figure, I’ll side with Murofushi-san.
Last year, I had gone to L.A. to visit my friend Ethan, and we had roamed around Little Tokyo, and discovered a somewhat hidden temple. Turns out that it’s one of the many Koyasan temples that are spread out over the entire world. Now, you may be asking “why is he mentioning that now?”.
In L.A., I stood in front of the Koyasan temple, and was overcome with a feeling that I had never felt before. Many people have felt this as well. From that point on, I decided to be a better person, and that I would do more as a person. It was as if a door had been unlocked somewhere within me. No joke. I don’t know just what “door” was unlocked, but I felt that feeling once again while I was here, only stronger.
This time, I quietly stood at the feet of the Daibutsu, hands together, eyes closed, and my head was down just a bit to show respect. I began to think, was this trip the first door unlocking? What’s more, what awaits me on the other side of that new door that was just unlocked here at Kamakura?
To the left of the Daibutsu was the sound of times past... and to my surprise it was two Shakuhachi players along with three Koto players! See below.
When we first showed up, there were some Taiko drummers who had set up and were playing, and had to stop due to the drizzling rain. But before we left, they had removed the cloths from the drum tops, and began playing. They were incredible! I have video of them actually playing, but you’ll have to wait for the DVD to see that! In the mean time, here’s a photo I snapped of them while they were waiting for the rain to stop.
Murofushi-san gathered us all up, and took us to where there was a lunch prepared for us, right across the street.
Once we got inside and were seated, we got to dig in to the local cuisine, shown below.
I wonder what’s in here...
Ah! Chicken on a tofu skin, on top of a bed of rice...
...and what looks to be a type of Japanese onion soup. Also with tofu skin.
Seriously, this was VERY tasty. After lunch, it was time to head to the third and final temple of the day: Hachimangu Shrine.
2:00 PM – TSURUGAOKA HACHIMANGU SHRINE
We went back to the train station, to go back to Kamakura Station, and walk to Hachimangu. According to Murofushi-san, the stairs leading up to the main temple area is over 1,000 years old.
To your immediate left, is a small cleansing station, to clear out the bad spirits before you enter the temple. See below photo.
The closer we got to Hachimangu, the further back in time I felt we were going. There were people in kimonos, and all sorts of traditional clothes that you would see back then. We saw a temple collection box, that had these paper foldings (known as origami) hanging from the roof of the structure, as well as an area that had a whole boatload of prayer knots. (see below)
Just then, as we’re walking towards the temple, I noticed that that the people in front of me were turning around and taking photos of something behind us. I quickly whipped around, and saw something that you really don’t get to see in America...
A Japanese wedding! This is something that you could only truly appreciate here. This happy couple proudly walked through the rain to the shrine-like building at the bottom of the temple steps. Inside, there were the temple abbotts, who were the ones slated to perform the ceremonies. (see below)
This was simply amazing! There were people who looked like they have just come through a time portal, and then there were those who looked on and smiled. Traditions are a big part of Japanese culture, and they’ve been doing this for centuries. As we approached the bottom of the big staircase in front of Hachimangu, I saw saw something SO BEAUTIFUL, I almost cried…
This shot, is one to LIVE for. The grandfather and his granddaughter are re about to climb the stairs when the grandfather says to her:
“Wai... Oki desu ne?” says the Grandfather, which is “Wow, Big isn’t it?”
The Granddaughter replies: “Issho ni, noborimasho!” which is “Let’s climb them together!” in Japanese.