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.
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!