Jason in Japan
March Trip

March Trip

March 20-28, 2006
Tokyo Kamakura Kyoto Nara Eiheiji

In March, my friend Vaibhav spent a couple of months in Thailand and India, and happened to be passing through Japan on his way back to Vancouver. He decided to extend his stay, and I booked some time off work, so we could meet up and travel around Japan. In a little over a week, we managed to see quite a few places.

On March 19th, I took a night bus from Yamagata to Tokyo, arriving at 6 am on the 20th. I met up with Yukari, a friend I met in Vancouver last year, and we took a train to meet Vaibhav at Narita Airport. The three of us spent the day in Tokyo, checking out various parts of the city. The next day, Vaibhav and I headed down to Kamakura, about an hour south by train, to see the Daibutsu (giant Buddha statue) and some temples, then returned to Tokyo in the evening to take a night bus to Kyoto.

We stayed in Kyoto for the next four nights, which was barely enough time to scratch the surface of its endless temples, gardens, and other attractions. On Friday, the 24th, we made a day trip to Nara, where we saw another Daibutsu, and some of the country's oldest and most historic temples and museums, including Horyuji — the oldest wooden structure in the world.

On Saturday night, we stayed at a shukubo (an inn where monks traditionally stayed for training before entering a monastery) in the hills of Higashiyama, the southeast part of Kyoto. We woke up at 6 am the next morning, sat in on a dokyo (Buddhist chant [lit. sutra reading]) session, then had a delicious breakfast.

That evening, we took a train to Fukui City. We spent the next day at nearby Eiheiji, the original and main Soto Zen temple founded by Dogen around 1250. Eiheiji is truly a remarkable place, where some 200 monks still live and practise, and was the highlight of the trip for me. At the end of the day, we caught another night bus from Fukui back to Tokyo, where we spent our last day before parting ways and heading home.

I'd been in Yamagata since I arrived in Japan in November 2005, and this was my first chance to see some other parts of the country. So far this has been the best part of my year in Japan. I had a great time, took around 850 photos, and now I've finally had the chance to put together these galleries and write up the stories.