Trip Start Jan 24, 2006
Trip End Feb 04, 2006

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Following our fabulously relaxing day at the Japanese spa, Holly and I spent our next day hiking all over Kamakura looking at shrines and temples.
A little surprised at the commute, we arrived in Kamakura 2 hours after leaving Numazu and with quite an appetite. Luckily we were pushed up through the large red gate with the rest of the japanese crowd toward the biggest of the temples. The path to the temple was lined with shops and food stalls and we ate our way all the way up. Pork stuffed steamed rice dumplings, rice crackers with soy, candy coated soybeans, garlic marinated bamboo shoots, vegetable sausage, spicy crackers followed immediately by green tea, custard-stuffed waffle, and yakitori, and sugar candy. We rolled in to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine with the rest of the crowd our hunger satiated for now. The temple was full to the brim with japanese pilgrims praying, many dressed in kimonos and buying their fortunes and wishing wood plates to hang up for the new year. Holly and I were feeling a bit cramped, we ventured up the steps to the inner temple were people were waiting to be allowed in to pray. We admired the view from the top, the lovely shape of the architecture and landscaping of the environment. We noted the tree where the son of the shogun was beheaded and his later child murdered (a long time ago). And we left. It was just too crowded and more seemed to be on the way.

Next stop was a giant buddha. In one corner, let's hear it for the the Daibutsu (buddha) of Kamakura. 37 feet high, and weighing at at 93 tons. His challengers today in the opposite corner, Renna and Holly, who early today ate there way through a street market and have literally just finished a chocolate and banana crepe each. You feeling lucky punk...

This Buddha is not just famous for its size, it is only riveled by the slightly larger Buddha of Nara, but for the kindness the artist sculpted on its face. A more merciful Buddha it is said, than his cousin at Nara. Although as you will see from the photos a much less well-fed Buddha than the Buddha of the Asian continent with his big laughing belly. It was really something to see, especially set against the hillside behind it. Originally bronze, the buddha has turned a charming greeny color, which is lovely against the sky. Nearby someone even wove giant buddha sized sandals that are hanging against the wall, suggesting that Buddha may at any moment tire of his meditation rise and collect his shoes.

AT 4:15 Holly and I raced down the road at top speed, difficult after devoring a chocolate and banana crepe, to try and catch the last of the famous temples called Hase Kannon Temple before it shut at 4:30. Making what the guide book calls a leisurely 10 min walk into a stomach holding painful 8 and a half minute waddle. We made it and climbed up the steps to a magnificent view of the city of Kamakura. I could not figure out to my dismay what kind of religion exactly ran this temple. Really pretty pathetic but there was just no english explanation anywhere. THere were statues of Buddha and a giant prayer wheel with buddhist script, there was a huge 30 ft gilt statue of Kannon -- the goddess of Mercy, and a side shrine for Jizo, the guardian deity of Children. The Jizo shrine was a little spooky as families buy statues of Jizo and dress them in doll's clothing to represent their lost child in childbirth or later. Inside the actual altar were boxes of new children's toys left for kid's in the afterlife. I bought myself a fortune and under Life and Death it said You will be alive and under travelling it said unfavorable. He, what does it know. I'm having a great time! Not fully happy with my fortune, which auspiciously suggested I would do well to acquire a great deal of black laquerware, I hung it up on the fortune strings with many others, who also hoped for better things then our bits of paper fortuned.
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