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!
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.
Almost every time I visit the grand Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura I get the chance to visit one of their gorgeous traditional wedding ceremonies. The shrine is not only one of the biggest tourists attractions of Kamakura but also very popular with couples all over Kanagawa prefecture and beyond! I saw two ceremonies when I was there a couple of weeks ago, and here are some snapshots of one of them, from the whole ceremony waiting in the shade to the seating at the raised platform before the shrine itself. It was an exceedingly hot and sunny day with temperatures near 34 degrees celsius in the shade!
Today is the seventh of the seventh, and in Japan that means it’s time for the tanabata festival, at least according to our modern Gregorian calendar. The most visual aspect of the tanabata festival is the large decorations you’ll see put up at temples, shrines and even stations and shopping malls all over the country. I took these photos yesterday at Kamakura’s grand Tsurugaoka Hachimangu on the first day of summer here in the Kanto region, the rather dry rainy season having ended early. But the most famous tanabata festivals take place in Sendai City in Miyagi Prefecture.