More photos from my trip to Kamakura the other week. I visited the Kotokuin temple, famous for its 11th century great buddha statue, the big buddha of Kamakura. The city of Kamakura is also in essence the quintessential Japan. It has everything (except rice paddies): the ocean, temples, mountains, shrines, caves, culture, history, shopping, trains, winding old streets and a much needed intensive does of nature.
The Kotokuin temple has two parts, one garden part and one main courtyard where the big buddha is. Most people tend to spend time the big buddha and miss the other parts which might not have anywhere near as much drawing power as the statue. But there are a few things to see, not least (in this season) being the wonderfully red momiji, or Acer Palmatum, or Japanese maple as it is most commonly known in the west. It is the essential autumn tree in Japan. You can really have an autumn fair, an autumn postcard, serve an autumn meal or wear an autumn kimono without making some sort of reference to the momiji. Think of it as the sakura (cherry blossom) of the autumn!
Kotokuin temple is a nice longish walk from Kamakura station (you’ll need a good sense of direction or a map) or a quicker walk from Hase station on the Endoen. It is easy to combine with a short trip to the Yuigahama beach to get a nice view of the Pacific Ocean as well!
One of the things I love the most about Japanese festivals is that they are so multi-generational. Everyone gets a chance to join in and there is a place for everyone regardless of age or ability. One of the most exciting festivals in Tokyo is the massive Oeshiki buddhist ceremony at the huge Honmonji in Ikegami, Ota Ward in southern Tokyo. I took these photos of kids joining in, mimicking the adults with their matoi poles and ritual dancing. The kid’s versions are obviously much smaller but they still take it very seriously. Some of the kids are taped up like pro athletes! I can imagine that the constant twisting of the matoi poles can be very hard on fingers, hands and wrists. They also use a very fine talcum powder to get a proper grip on the poles, as the evening progresses the talcum tends to get everywhere! I found when I got home that evening that I too had been covered in a grey mist of powder! Even my camera was coated in it.
One little kid in particular caught my attention, too small to take part in the dancing the kid was still participating fully even from the pram!
Last weekend I visited Kamakura south of Tokyo, one of Japan’s ancient capitals and wonderful city by the Pacific Ocean. The weather was interesting, going from ominous black clouds to brilliant sunshine to short rains all through the day. I guess most people stayed indoors that day. I visited the Kotokuin, the temple that is most famous for its giant Buddha statue built in 1252. Originally the statue was housed in a wooden buildings but Japan being the land of earthquakes, tsunami and typhoons, it has been destroyed many times since then. I also found a very tiny hidden statue, the sixth photo, inside the temple grounds that I had never seen before. I wonder how many people walk past it every day without noticing it?
This temple was visited by the poet Rudyard Kipling in 1892 and was made famous in his writings during the following years. It is possible that the prior of the temple was inspired by Kiplings poem and maybe the surge in foreign tourists to post the unusual sign asking visitors to behave inside the temple grounds? The sign is posted before the entrance but easily missed I guess, and written in wonderfully old fashioned Japanese and English.
I thought the first night of the massive Oeshiki ceremony in Tokyo’s Ikegami district was pretty crowded, seeing as the out of town participants usually don’t show up until the second night. It turns out I was just lucky being in the right place at the right time as I caught most of the local teams as they pulled up for huge group photo on the beginning of the procession route towards the temple on top of the hill. Several teams and their leaders lined up in front of the official photographer and I sneaked right up to him, almost just below his ladder. I think the main guy in the photos were the leader of the local teams but I could be wrong. Still, they were all very photogenic!