Friday, September 21, 2007


Sunday was a big day for me. I got to see all sorts of new things and explore. It was also a really frustrating day, as I will explain.

First off, to get the bad points out of the way, I hate group trips. It's not the planners or the guides fault that group trips suck. It's not even necessarily the group I went with (although they did suck for the most part), it was the fact that getting 20 people to do anything at the same time requires patience and lots of waiting.

Besides the amount of time I spent hanging out doing nothing and the amount of stuff I missed because of that, I really enjoyed myself.

So, the group left at 9:30, and if you're keeping track, this was after 2 nights in Shibuya, so I wasn't about to wake up at 9:30, so I went out to Kamakura on my own around noon.

Kamakura is a beach town known for all the traditional temples and shrines and such not too far away from Tokyo. It took me about 80 minutes to get there from my house. Admittedly, my house is in the southeast part of Tokyo, and so is Kamakura, but still, for the dramatic difference in scenery, it was a bit amazing.

I really didn't know where Kamakura was when I left. I just followed the instructions on my phone. It was pretty out there. By that, I mean it was out there pretty far, but I also mean there was some pretty scenery out where I went.

It was easy to see that this wasn't Tokyo anymore.

The houses were a lot more traditional, there were blue skies, nothing higher over two stories, and big green mountains.

I knew nothing about Kamakura except that there was a big festival. I called my friend once I got off of the train and she said "turn right on the main road. You'll see lions and stuff". Lions? What's she talking about?

Oh look. Lions. I get it now.

So, there was this big festival going on, and there were people on horses shooting arrows, and it was really crowded.

Since I had more than one person tell me that it was impossible to actually get up to the gates due to the crowd, and I just got off of a train from Tokyo, so I didn't feel like pushing and shoving my way to see things. Besides, that's not really what I came to see.

So, we met up with everyone in the group and went onwards. We got on a bus and rode down a long windy road that was filled with old buildings on each side.

When we got off the bus, we headed towards the temple of the great Buddha. Before we could go, we had to pass his guards.

Angled shots make it creepier, don't they?

So, we got in the area and fought the crowds again. It wasn't that crowded, though. So where was this great Buddha I'd heard so much about?

Holy crap! There it is!

This guy was not tiny! According to the little fact sheet they handed out upon arrival (that was also the ticket), this guy was built in 1252. That's old. I mean, just pause and think about that for a second... 1252.

He used to be indoors until 1495 when a tidal wave came and ruined the building around him, but he was okay. So, he's been sitting outside since 3 years after Columbus discovered America and realized that there were people here.

The whole place was fantastic to see.

I went inside. It cost me a whopping 20 yen (like 20 cents) to go there. The inside was pretty ugly, unless you like looking at old, patched up metal. Then in that case, you'd love it.

Yeah, this guy is big. And heavy too.
His slippers were quite large as well.

It's interesting that the smoking section is right in front of those slippers.

That was something I glad I saw. I don't think I'll go out of my way to see him again, but if I have someone visiting for a week or two, I'd happily go back.

So, from there, we walked maybe 5 minutes to this other temple. This place was much larger, much emptier, and the grounds were significantly better groomed.

Which is fair. Let's face it, I went to the big Buddha to see the big Buddha, not the grounds around it. This place was an amazing, unexpected surprise.

It was on top of this hill that overlooked the beach. I can clearly see why they built this here.

This was not Tokyo.

Inside this building was an absolutely amazing and huge golden Buddha. It was one of the most fantastic sights I've seen in my life. They were picky about taking pictures, but I can show you the building.

that's some nice architecture.

I really wanted to share what the golden Buddha looked like, but it was made abundantly clear that they didn't want me to take pictures, and I don't want to be the tourist jerk, so I didn't.

Big temples and shrines like this are quite interesting and odd to me. There's usually one major focus and then several smaller areas of interest. In this case, besides the giant golden Buddha, there were some smaller golden Buddhas (which they also didn't want pictures taken of) and this small building with a tiny wooden Buddha.

They didn't seem to care about pictures of this. I didn't quite understand what it was, though. I think it was dedicated towards children because there was this little table inside with children's toys and there was a bottle of tea that was still cold sitting there. I didn't understand it, but it felt strange to see.

Then there were all these tiny little statues.

There were a lot of them.

Some of them were clean, some were dirty. Some looked worn, some looked brand new. I didn't get it either, but I'm fine with that.

It was a beautiful place.

Apparently, there was a cave that I didn't get a chance to go into because we spent too much time looking at other things and I didn't realize the cave closed before everything else. Unlike the giant Buddha, this I would see again just to see, and I might.

This was an old shack right outside of the temple.

So, me and my friend said farewell to the rest of the group and headed over to the beach to meet another friend. He ditched the group because he already saw the big Buddha and didn't care to see it again.

We missed sunset by the time we got there, and all the pictures I took weren't worth looking at, but I'll tell you, it was great. First off, once you're near the beach, it could be mistaken for any beach in the world. There are restaurants overlooking it, a gas station on the corner, a road around it, dunes, crappy bathrooms, everything. Once you're on the beach, it was kind of a different story.
I think they tell it better than I could.

How right you are, Mr. Sign. How right you are.

This didn't matter anyways. It was a pretty surreal experience to be standing on the beach looking at the Pacific ocean from the other direction. Just the thought was mind boggling.

The rest of the evening I enjoyed my the company of my friends immensely. We shared a bottle of wine and had some amazing sushi.

In general, Kamakura was a quite pleasant experience and it felt strangely good to get out of Tokyo for a while. Don't get me wrong, I am by no means getting sick of Tokyo, but to smell the salt air, to look at those amazing temples and see the trees, to soak in the feeling of a town that wasn't a giant, giant, megacity, that felt nice.

No comments: