Jason in Japan

March Trip

March 20-28, 2006
Tokyo Kamakura Kyoto Nara Eiheiji


March 21, 2006

Kamakura Daibutsu
Located about an hour south of Tokyo, Kamakura was once the capital of Japan. From 1192–1333, the country was under the rule of the Minamoto clan, which established a bakufu (shogunate) in Kamakura. The present-day city (with a population around 170,000) is relatively small by today's standards, but it nonetheless has several prominent landmarks, the most famous of which is surely the Daibutsu (giant Buddha statue). Although the Daibutsu in Nara is larger, the one in Kamakura is arguably the more beautiful of the two, and it was our main reason for going to Kamakura on the second day of our trip.

We left from Akabane Station in Tokyo, and — after getting on the right train, but going in the wrong direction, eventually realizing this and switching trains (oops) — we finally arrived at the North Kamakura Station, ready to begin the day's adventures. Our first stop was Engakuji, a Rikai Zen temple founded in 1282. This was the first of many temples we saw on our trip. Unfortunately, the lighting conditions weren't ideal for taking pictures, and most of my photos didn't turn out well, but I did get a few decent ones.

After leaving Engakuji, we had lunch at a small sushi place. A group of people were loudly cheering as they watched Japan winning the world baseball championship on TV, adding color to the experience. One older guy (who had obviously been hitting the sake) was repeatedly shouting "Japan...baseball...number one!" in our direction, much to the embarrassment of a younger girl sitting at the sushi bar — perhaps his granddaughter — who finally said "wakatteru yo!" ("yeah, we got it already!").

Our next destination was the Daibutsu. We decided to take a hiking trail to get there. It ended up taking quite a bit longer than we thought it would, but nonetheless did lead us to the Daibutsu, and was in any case a good chance to get some exercise and fresh air. I've seen plenty of pictures of the Daibutsu before, and in my experience, arriving at a famous landmark is often a bit of an anticlimax, but this was definitely an exception. Though the Daibutsu looks pretty stunning even in photos, the real thing is quite a bit more impressive, and I was immediately glad that we'd taken the time to see it.

We eventually made our way back to the North Kamakura Station, took a train back to Tokyo, and caught the night bus to Kyoto.