In early July, I decided enough was enough and ventured off to see the fabled Kamakura, home to the bakufu, the military government of Japan from 1600-1868. My transportation specialist was wanting to find a museum there that focused in the shogunate period to give him a better grounding. At the risk of spoiling the surprise, I did not find him an indoor air conditioned museum to wander in, perhaps the Edo Era Museum back in Tokyo would have been better for that, but there were plenty of other things to do in Kamakura to keep us occupied for the day.
Of course the first adventure whenever one steps off of the train in Japan is getting your bearings. If I haven’t mentioned it before, most neighborhoods in Japan are not set out on a grid. The roads wind and curve, and addresses in them are numbered in order, but have no relationship to any intersections that might occur. While Google Maps is a lifesaver, it can still be a bear to discern which road will lead you where you want to go. Fortunately, near the station, my transportation specialist located a tourist map on a nearby bulletin board, and the guide there spoke English and helped us on our way, even suggesting other points of interest along the way.
The Kamakura Daibutsu is a large (and I mean huge!) bronze statue of the Buddha. The statue is over 13 meters tall (over 42 feet for those playing at home) and hollow inside. For 20 yen, (about 20 cents) you can go inside. It has a very narrow staircase that is about half a transportation specialist wide. Fortunately it is not very long or my semi-mobile roadblock would have trapped the other tourists inside! It was cast in several pieces and assembled on site in 1252. At one time there was a temple around it, but due to tsunami and tidal waves, the statue has been standing in open air since 1495.
You don’t get to walk up on the Buddha casually. The entrance to the complex is as far from the statue as possible and there are walls up to screen the Buddha from view until you have purchased a ticket. Even then you are quite a trek from the statue itself.
While there is no temple sheltering the Buddha now, there are a number of of buildings and awnings mostly to provide shade and locations to sell souvenirs to the tourists. An interesting facet of this particular locations is the sheer amount of shade and benches that are scattered around the grounds. Unlike many modern Japanese attractions that seem to be dedicated to servicing the largest number of customers in the smallest amount of time and space, the spacious grounds offer a peaceful place to relax in the shade and interact with friendly pigeons.
Next week we’ll continue our exploration of Kamakura at the Hasedera temple. I’ll make some commentary about the feed and watering of transportation specialists, and much fun will be had by all. Be sure to join us.
Until then, Hippo, Hippo.