On Sunday, my old friend Herb Donovan came by our hotel and took us to Kamakura, home of The Big Buddah. That was really nice of him — it was a full-day excursion, and we’d not have been able to do all we did by ourselves.
Anyway, we took the train to Enoshima, which is almost 50km from Tokyo (with Yokohama in between… that’s all one giant urban conglomeration now). The train had seats that swivelled, so you could face your travelling companions if you wanted; never seen that before. Some trains have seats right at the front (like the pic on the left), which is also pretty nifty.
Anyway, at Enoshima (map link) we walked out to the island, which (a la Mont St. Michel) was formerly only accessible on foot at low tide, but there’s a handy causeway now. There are a few temples, and an observation tower at the top. Leading up to it, of course, is a tourist-trap street (the 2nd thing that really reminded me of Korea, or, in this case, of any similar attraction). Souvenirs and restaurants the whole way, including a truly spectacular display of plastic food. Curiously, we did not seek out the shop that sell them, even though we were quite nearby a couple of days later; opportunities missed!
The temples’ setting on a heavily wooded hillside suited the day, which was fairly wet. As with our hike with Andreas & Josie in Jeju, a bit of rain only kept us cool. There were some features that I’d not seen in other Buddhist temples, like a hoop that devotees would walk through when approaching the temple, and a small grotto (though not with devotional candles; perhaps because of the rain?).
We went right to the top, where there’s a formal garden built by an Englishman over a century ago. But, with the rain and more to see, we didn’t go in.
We then took the tram 5km up the coast to Kamakura, to the Hase-dera Temple, Lunch… and the Big Buddah. From the sign at the entrance: “The principle object of worship at Hasedera temple is the eleven-headed Kannon statues, know to be some of the finest wooden Buddha statues in Japan.” Two were carved, one kept in a shrine there (in Nara Prefecture) and the other being put out to sea… it washed up here, and the temple was founded.
No photos allowed of the Kannon statue, which was huge and quite lovely. But what struck me most was the sheer number of Buddhas, of all sizes (but mostly tiny), there must have been thousands of them. “Baby Buddhas”, I called them.
Another thing that struck me, both there and at other temples, were the small gardens that seemed to be tucked away here and there. Again, the wet day probably showed them off to best advantage.
And so to lunch. Wouldn’t want to see the Big Buddah on an empty stomach We popped into a place a couple of doors down from the temple, nice & homey, lots of wood and a mostly Japanese clientele. The cuisine here, cooked at the table on flat metal grills, was reminiscent of some Korean dishes, but again a bit different. First a couple of pancakes mixed up at the table; the waitress instantly handed the 2nd bowl to Aingeal for mixing — no question of giving it to Herb or me!
Next was a mixed grill of meat, cabbage, beansprouts and buckwheat noodles, mixed up all together. I swear, I’ve eaten more buckwheat since arriving in Seoul than in my entire life. Fortunately, the buckwheat noodles are tasty. The table behind me (pictured above) also had the same thing. And I also kept an eye on the table to my right, who ate liquidy things that seemed to require a lot of reducing & thickening; great way to pace the meal!
The Big Buddah of Kamakura
At last! This thing is amazing, and worth the trip itself. The “Seated Amida Buddha”, also known as the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) of Kamakura was bult in the mid 1200’s, and is around 13.4 metres high (including the base). It’s a big Buddha alright.
As you swing around the bushes and it comes into view, you don’t quite realize how big it is. Everyone is busy taking “postcard pictures” at that point, not excluding ourselves. In front of the statue are a couple of large (of course) metal Lotus flower statues; lotus is another recurring theme of course.
Around the statue, there are some low buildings selling charms and wooden “wish” tablets, and behind those (to the back of the Buddha) is a small garden with another temple.
Well, we spent a bit of time looking at the Big Buddha. You can even go inside (it’s hollow, made of plates), but the air/ventilation doors on the statue’s shoulder blades were a bit disconcerting (not sure why).
After that, we took the tram on to Kamakura center, had a bit of a stroll around, and then the train back to Tokyo. Kamakura seemed like a very nice town, with everything in the area, I could see spending a weekend there if I lived in Tokyo.