Sep 142014

2014-09-07 Kamakura 111 banner

2014-09-07 Kamakura 002

Herb & Peter

2014-09-07 Kamakura 010On 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.

2014-09-07 Kamakura 014 Enoshima

That Girl, Aingeal & Herb


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.

2014-09-07 Kamakura 016 Enoshima 2014-09-07 Kamakura 020 EnoshimaAnyway, 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!


2014-09-07 Kamakura 030 Enoshima 2014-09-07 Kamakura 027 EnoshimaThe 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.

Hasedera (Kamakura)

2014-09-07 Kamakura 042 Hasadera Temple2014-09-07 Kamakura 044 Hasadera TempleWe 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.

2014-09-07 Kamakura 049 Hasadera Temple2014-09-07 Kamakura 052 Hasadera TempleNo 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.


2014-09-07 Kamakura 053 Lunch2014-09-07 Kamakura 077 Lunch 2014-09-07 Kamakura 062 LunchAnd 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!

2014-09-07 Kamakura 093 Lunch2014-09-07 Kamakura 091 LunchNext 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

2014-09-07 Kamakura 108 Big Buddah2014-09-07 Kamakura 101 Big BuddahAt 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.

2014-09-07 Kamakura 118 Big BuddahAs 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.


2014-09-07 Kamakura 114 Big Buddah2014-09-07 Kamakura 110 Big BuddahWell, 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).


2014-09-07 Kamakura 131After 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.




 Posted by on 14 Sep 2014
Sep 142014

2014-09-06 Tokyo 062 bannerChuseok is a very big holiday here in Korea — often, it’s called “Korean Thanksgiving”, and is similar in many ways: a harvest festival, very food- and family-oriented, people “go home” for big family reunions.  So, naturally, we went to Tokyo, flying out on the Saturday morning (with the weekend, we had Saturday to Wednesday).

2014-09-06 Tokyo 0062014-09-06 Tokyo 015After checking into our hotel (the b-Akasaka Mitsuke, which I’d recommend), we headed off to the Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine) and a bit of a walkabout on the famous Harajuku Street (famous for wild attire) and then down Cat Street to Shibuya (home of a renowned “scramble intersection”, of which more in a later post).

The Meiji Jingu was lovely.  I was there before, around 7 or 8 years ago, and found it as calm and cool as before, with the long walk from the entrance to the shrine, on wide gravel paths through huge trees, to the shrine itself with clean lines and understated decoration.

2014-09-06 Tokyo 0322014-09-06 Tokyo 026There were some things I’d forgotten, like the large display of sake barrels (each wrapped in straw), and the second, even larger, entrance gate around half-way in. 2014-09-06 Tokyo 033

2014-09-06 Tokyo 0412014-09-06 Tokyo 062As before, there were a lot of weddings (see video below).  On the side of the enclosure, was a place being used for wedding pictures — there were two groups in action, with a bride being made up for when her turn came up in a few minutes.  And, as we were leaving (by a different route) we saw The Departure — the bride in her kimona being helped into a taxi (the hinged roof for easier access by brides with fancy hair was a very clever bit of design).

2014-09-06 Tokyo 075After that, we strolled down Harajuku Street.  More than anything in Tokyo, it reminded me of such streets in Seoul (particularly places like the restaurant street in Itaewon).  2014-09-06 Tokyo 097I fear Harajuku is bit of a victim of its own success — too many smug looking tourists recording video on their smart phone from one end of the street to the other, not enough original & unusual outfits (I suspect that crowd has moved on to a newer, hipper, less-known venue).

From there, we cut across to Omote-sando (very high end shopping) and down Cat Street to Shibuya.  That was all very nice (we did it again on our last day), and our timing was excellent: Vogue Fashion’s Night Out Tokyo!  The place was swarming with people, but Cat Street was charming (in a relentless-shopping sort of way, a hard trick to pull off).  From there, to the metro at Shibuya and home to the hotel.

That night, we had dinner with my old college fraternity brother Herb, his wife Keiko & their son Senji.  They came by our hotel, and we walked to a place nearby.  It was a fun evening, what with seeing Herb after quite a long time & meeting his family.  We saw more of Herb the next day, but that’s in the next post…

Here’s the wedding procession video, followed by a photo gallery.



 Posted by on 14 Sep 2014
Sep 042014

2014-09-04 Lotus Park 05 banner
2014-09-04 Lotus Park 032014-09-04 Lotus Park 09Yes, I know that I posted about the Lotus Pond Park before, but a year’s gone by and it was looking lovely this morning.  Left a bit earlier than usual — saw my friend & neighbor Bill walking past just as That Girl was heading down to the bus stop at “the Sev”(-en 11, that is) — and thought I’d stretch out my walk a bit with a couple of circuits of the park (Bill had to get home & to work).

It rained last night, a real torrent, but this morning the air was cool, clean and clear, so our constitutional on the Skyway was lovely.  What better time to revisit the Lotus Pond?  And it was looking great!

2014-09-04 Lotus Park 012014-09-04 Lotus Park 12When I’d just finished my 2nd lap of the park (imagine a sideways figure-8, but very high and narrow — that’s a bit what the trails in the park are shaped like), I hear a phone ringing at an empty exercise station.  Some hunting around was fruitless, but they called back, and this time I found it.  Unsurprisingly, it was a Korean (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-Korean in the park or, for that matter, ever using any exercise area), no doubt the lady who forgot her phone.  And me with no Korean… Fortunately, an ajumma* happened by.  I gave her the phone and indicated what had happened (mime!  it has its uses!).  A long conversation later, all was sorted out, the phone’s owner will collect it somehow, the ajumma & I thanked each other with much bowing.  And so to home, my good deed for the day done.

*  아줌마 in Korean.  Wikipedia says “a Korean word literally meaning “aunt”, however, it is most often used to refer to any middle-aged or older woman”.  Yes, but I think calling an older woman “Aunt” or “Auntie” is found in a lot of cultures… “Grannie” or “Grandma” might be rude, as making her sound old, hence “Auntie”…?

 Posted by on 04 Sep 2014