The first touristy thing we were able to check off our list was to visit Kamakura. One of the greatest things about Japan is the history this ancient land has to offer and Kamakura has no shortage of that!
The Great Buddha
This guy is the main reason Rob wanted to visit Kamakura. The Great Buddha is nearly 800 years old, about 37 feet tall and approximately 242,000 lbs. The size is impressive but we were mostly in awe of the age! It’s hard to wrap our brains around how old he actually is. The building that was once around him was destroyed due to extreme weather but he survived.
The following is from Kotoku-in web site for the Great Buddha:
According to the Azumakagami, a chronicle describing the achievements of the Kamakura Shogunate from the late 12th century through the mid-13th century, construction of the Great Buddha began in 1252. It is also believed that the priest Joko gathered donations from the people to build it. However, much remains unclear about the specifics of the Great Buddha’s construction, and the artist has yet to be identified.
When it was first built, the Great Buddha was enshrined in Daibutsu-den Hall, but ancient records (Taiheiki and Kamakura-dainikki) tell us that this building was damaged and ultimately destroyed in typhoons hitting in 1334 and 1369, and subsequently in a severe earthquake in 1498.
For an extra 20 yen per person, you can go inside of the Buddha. It was cool to say we did but it was a very narrow, steep, dark stairwell & was very crowded. I wouldn’t say you’re missing much should you choose not to go inside the buddha.
There were a couple of cool gift shops with some awesome novelty items but they don’t allow pictures of their merchanise but we bought a handful of souvenirs to take back home to people.
Kamakura is just a quick train ride away from Yokosuka (although, we have a couple of train stations nearby and we did start at the wrong one). Fortunately, the trains between the two cities run constantly so when we got to the right station, it was a relatively short wait.
These big basins with ladels are known as chōzubachi, or purification fountains, and are used for hand and mouth washing. You start out with cupped hands, and you simply rinse your mouth, spitting the water out beside the fountain. None of the water shoud be returned to the basin & you’re not supposed to swallow it. We actually read about these after this visit but initially had no idea what they were for! Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend putting any of that water in your mouth because I’ve read about a lot of people who had no idea what they were supposed to do here, and woud do a quick hand rinse by just pouring the water over their hands, over the basin, with the water ending right back in it. It’s just a lack of knowledge on the part of visitors. I do believe some places have signs. This is a purification ritual.
If you are ill, in mourning or have an open wound, you are supposed to refrain from entering shrines and temples because they are causes of impurity.
This temple was one of our favorite places to visit. It’s what we envisioned seeing before coming to Japan!
According to the legend, in 721 AD, two Kannon statues were carved out of one sacred tree in Hatsuse (in the present day Nara Prefecture). One was enshrined at the Hasedera temple in Nara, the other was thrown into the ocean with a prayer to make it reappear and save people elsewhere. After the Kannon statue traveled across the waters for fifteen long years, it finally washed ashore in a place in the present day Kanagawa Prefecture. In 736 AD, the Hasedera temple in Kamakura was established to enshrine the Kannon statue. It is commonly called “Eleven-headed Kannon” since it has eleven heads on top of its own head. It measures 9.18 meters tall and this makes it one of the largest wooden Buddhist statues in Japan.
They wouldn’t let us take a picture of that guy, so I borrowed one from Wikipedia. He was pretty awesome.
Hasedera temple resides on a mountain called “Kannon-zan”. The ground holds a large variety of flowers which bloom throughout the year welcoming visitors. There is also a Zen garden, bamboo forest, Koi pond & plenty of other lovely greenery to see.
Additionally, the scenic view from the observation platform on the upper ground is recognized as one of the most picturesque spots in Kamakura.
All these little statues were placed there by people grieving over the loss of a child. The area where most of these are placed is known as Jizo-do Hall and these are called Jizo statues. When a parent loses their baby before it has the opportunity to live, such as miscarriage or stillbirth, they can donate a Jizo statue to help their baby to have a safe passage into the next life, since the baby did not have the opportunity to build up good karma themselves. The statues remain in place for approximately one year.
There were certain areas that didn’t allow for pictures, which is common when you visit temples, especially in the indoor areas.
For an extra 300 Yen per person, you could walk through the Kannon museum. We don’t have any pictures from it, but you can go to the web site and see the brochure if you want to see what we saw.
Back home in Yokosuka after a wonderful first day of playing tourist!