Friday, August 24, 2007

Kamakura Walking Tour - stupid idea in August in Japan (way way way hot and humid)

On the 20th i went on a walking tour through one of the companies in Tokyo. The day didn't start out too well as i was late getting to my pick up point and missed my pick up. Luckily here in Japan, there are Koban or police boxes everywhere and so i went there and asked them to ring the company. I didn't have my Keitai (mobile) by then so i explained that to the police officer. But i obviously didnt do a very good job because he thought i meant my keitai and gaijin (alien rego) card were stolen on a tour yesterday. Anyway, with some broken English and Japanese we worked it out. I then had to take a $30 taxi ride to the next pick up place. Which i didn't mind because it was nice to be back in a car again. Strange how that feels different even though i have only been here just under a month.

The tour started when we boarded a train to Kamakura. We had to change a couple times but the longest ride was 50 mins. It was really nice to be around English speakers again. Once we got to Kamakura we went to Hase Kannon Temple. I learnt today that Temples are for Buddhism and Shrines are got Shintoism.

Hase Kannon Temple
There was a huge Kannon statue (9.18m) with one big head and eleven smaller ones. The Kannon is the goddess of Mercy in Buddhism. The eleven smaller ones have different facial experessions. These eleven heads signiy that the deity listens to the wishes of all different types of people and at all times of the year. There is a smaller statue at the bottom of it because before electricity was invented they lit candles around the smaller one so that worshippers who visited at night could see what the Kannon looks like. I also got a view of the Pacific Ocean. The first time i have seen the horizen since I arrived in Japan. Was standing out on my balcony the other day and thinking about the horizon and how i missed it. Never really thought about it in Alice Springs.

A good website for more info is

Next we walked to

Kotokuin Temple and the Big Buddha.
The temple is actually not there anymore because a tsunami washed it away in 1498. The statue was made in around 1252. It weighes around 93 tons. It is 13.35m tall. You can go inside the statue. There are stairs inside it leading almost all the way up to the head. When i was there you can only go up as high as the belly and it only costs 20 yen (so basically 20 cents AU). It was the middle of the day by this time so it was really hot walking around the Buddha but it was really great. I didn't think it was that big when i looked at it from a distance but once i was standing right in front of the statue, it looked huge.

Next we went to lunch, which was a traditional Japanese set lunch. There was a bowl of rice with a dumpling on it, some really nice marinated chicken pieces, Japanese veges and a soba noodle soup. It was really nice. I especially liked the Japanese veges. It is hard to describe how they prepare them. There was a slice of carrot, a mushroom and i think it must have been tofu (awful). They are cold and must be steamed or boiled in a broth. They are so good.

After lunch we headed back to the local train station and took a train back to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

To reach the Shrine you walk down an elevated avenue down the middle of the main street called Wakamiya-oji or Young Prince Avenue. Dankazura is the name for the approach to the shrine. It is lined with Cherry trees which blossom in March and April. The avenue was commissioned by the first Shogun of Kamakura. He and his wife had two daughters and this meant that there wasn't any one to become Shogun after the present one died. Until the Shogun's wife became pregnant again. The baby was a boy and the avenue was made in his honour. There are also three red torii gates. There were also examples of the huge sake barrels at this temple, a whole wall of them. Also, there are actually 61 steps up to the shrine so i opted to stay and just look around the grounds. The others on the tour were only here for a couple days so they were enthusiastic about seeing ANOTHER shrine or temple. I am getting abit shrined and templed out. Plus it was too hot. I am gonna go back when it is cooler. Perhaps with my parents in winter.

Then we walked back through the shopping street. No one wanted to shop though because we were tired and hot and just wanted to go home.

It was a really good tour but i think i would recommend it in cooler weather. Sunrise tours is a really great company and i have actually booked a couple other tours with them too. Our guide spoke very good English and was very helpful. It was really a nice day.

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