This spring has been incredibly cold, wet, windy and weird. Yesterday we had barely 6 degrees here in Tokyo and in Gunma and Tochigi prefectures there were plenty of snowfall. Something is wrong with the weather! But there has been a handful of good days, like this morning a couple of weeks ago when I happened to pass through the famous Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura city south of Tokyo. I didn’t have time to stop but I had my camera ready and just took the things I saw as I hurried through the grand shrine. If you visit Tokyo this shrine about an hour’s train ride away is one of the must sees! I have been here so many times I rarely find anything new these days but I found a new ema design that I hadn’t seen before, one with a ginkgo tree image to commemorate the great gingko tree that blew down in the morning March 10th 2011 (which some people later recognized as a bad omen). The tree was 30m tall and about 1000 years old and it’s going to be awhile until the new tree planted near the old tree stump will grow to be anything like it’s predecessor.
A couple of weeks ago I spent a few minutes looking out at the sea from Yuigahama Beach in Kamakura city just south of Tokyo. The beach faces south so you are always going to see the sun over the ocean from this point, I always wonder what Kamakura would like like from a boat in the ocean? Someday I need to find myself a spot on one of those boats I sometimes see on the horizon here. It’s an unseasonably cold early April afternoon but already some windsurfers and surfers are out there.
One of the most important buddhist temples of Kamakura is the historic Jufukuji, founded in the year 1200 A.D. by the monk Myoan Eisei who studied philosophy in China before founding zen buddhism and revolutionizing the Japanese attitudes to green tea (he wrote of the health benefits which were later proved by modern science). The main temple building, which is not open to the public, was rebuilt in the 1750′s, but the charmingly moss covered cemetery is open and even holds a small almost hidden path to a nice park nearby.
If you have ever traveled on one of the many JR Trains heading south west from Tokyo to Kamakura or beyond, you’re most likely to have seen or at least passed while unaware of it, the huge Ofuna Kannon Temple statue on the hill to the right just as you pass Ofuna station. I have been on that train hundreds of times and every time I passed Ofuna I always thought that someday I should get off and investigate that huge white statue up there. Technically Ofuna is part of Kamakura City, but due to the geography of the area Ofuna is almost completely cut of from Kamakura in the south, even though I have walked between the the two stations in about 45 minutes a couple of times. The Ofuna Kannon Temple is quite young, being founded in 1929 and only completed 1960 with the finish of the handmade 1900 ton heavy statue of the Bodhisattva Kannon. The temple is dedicated to peace and has a number of relics from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, including some building stones and a flame taken from the fires that raged after the bombing and kept lit since then (you can barely see it in of one of the photos). The kannon statue itself is hollow and there’s a small prayer room inside with hundreds of miniature hand carved buddha statues with toothpicks for staffs in their hands. There’s also quite a few memorials to the friendship between the Japanese and the countries of South East Asia, and a lot of Vietnamese and Burmese people visit this temple. I saw one ema votive plate written in Vietnamese. I wonder what it says?
I visited the Ofuna Kannon Temple in spring, so the photos look a bit bare, also scenery in the middle of the day is as far from my preferred subjects as it can possibly get, hence the poor quality. I wish I had had a color negative film camera for this!