Day 5 – Kamakura
On day 5 we traveled out to Kamakura. This day also coincided with my 59th birthday. Kamikura has more temples and shrines within walking distance than just about anywhere in Japan.
We started the day by taking the train to Kita-Kamakura. This is about an hour walk from Kamakura proper, and gives you the opportunity to see a number of temples and shrines along the way.
Our first visit was to Engakuji Temple. This is a Zen Buddhist temple complex founded in 1282. You walk up a steep set of stairs to a very beautiful complex with beautiful pavilions, perfect for mediation.
According to legend, on Engaku-ji’s opening day, a herd of white deer emerged from this cave to listen to the sermon of Kaisan (Engaku-ji’s founder), Zen Master Mugaku Sogen together with the crowd. The title “Zuirokusan”, which is part of the name of the temple, was named for this story.
Our second stop was Tokeiji Temple, a buddhist temple and former nunnery. It was a safe haven for women who were abused by their husbands, and it is for this reason that it is sometimes referred to as the “divorce temple”.
The grounds of the Tokeiji Temple were very beautiful.
Our next stop was Kenchoji Temple, which was filled with tour bus groups, as well as a local cycling club who had come to visit.
The buddha there is quite amazing.
The second to last temple of the day we visited was Hasadera. The temple is built on a hill and has a wonderful view of Kamakura beach. Of course, getting to that viewpoint requires climbing lots of stairs.
One of the stairways is surrounded by blooming hydrangeas.
Once you get up to the top, the view is pretty spectacular.
We ate lunch at the cafe on the return trip down from the summit. The food wasn’t anything special, but it was air conditioned and the view was spectacular.
On the way down, we passed displays of hundreds of bodhisattvas, as well as a bamboo forest.
Hasedera has seven buildings, and you can spend well over an hour exploring the complete grounds. I went in the Benten-Kutsu cave, which was only mildly interesting. Skip it altogether if you are at all claustrophobic, as the ceiling is quite low at times.
More interesting is the Shoin hall, a place to copy Sutras or important documents. There was hardly anyone there, but it was a very beautiful courtyard. We couldn’t go into the building proper, but the courtyard was worth visiting.
Finally, we visited a small shrine, Shugenji temple.
On the train on the way back in to Tokyo from Kamakura, I couldn’t help but study some of the Japanese around me. From my informal evidence, riding on the subways, the Japanese, at least those in Tokyo, seem sleep deprived. At least half the people on any train were nodding off.
Also, many Japanese women sit, and sometimes walk, pigeon-toed. I almost never see this in the states.
And some images just strike you as interesting, including this one of a young woman wearing a kimono.
That evening, we tried to go to a restaurant recommended by the New York Times, making a reservation on OpenTable, However, when we arrived, the restaurant was closed for the day. As we were in the financial district, and I had forgotten to bring our wifi hotspot, we didn’t have access to the Internet to find something else nearby and walking around, everything was closed. So we got on the subway and headed to the sushi restaurant that our guide, Patrick, had recommended on Day two. It was excellent – the best sushi I’ve ever had, at least so far.