Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kamakura Japan April 16, 2011

First - I know that it's been awhile.  With the earthquake, tsunami, and radiation fears of the past month I've been a bit lax about updating my blog, apologies.  I'll try to revisit some of the events of the past month in future blog posts (including my almost 3 week unexpected trip to the US)  but for now, I'll start with details from our day trip yesterday. 

We decided to venture out of Tokyo to the nearby city of Kamakura, Japan - a small coastal town about 1 hour south of Tokyo.  We contemplated driving, but since our satellite navigation system - that speaks in English, but must be programmed in Japanese (ha!) is virtually useless to us, we decided to take the train instead.  After a one hour train ride, we arrived in the city of Kamakura with our mission being to visit the giant Buddha Daibutsu- the 2nd largest in Japan (largest is in Nara).  

Kamakura was once the political center and capital of Japan when Minamoto Yoritomo chose the city as the seat for his new military government in 1192.  The Kamakura government continued to rule Japan for over a century, first under the Minamoto shogun and then under the Hojo regents.  After the decline of the Kamakura government in the 14th century, the capital of Japan became Kyoto but Kamakura remained vital as a political epicenter for Eastern Japan for many years thereafter.  
Today, Kamakura is a small city that has been referred to as a little Kyoto due to the large number of temples, shrines and historical monuments.  

We arrived just after noon so our first order of business was to find lunch.  We started walking down Komachi Dori - a very popular pedestrian only street lined with restaurants, souvenir shops and stands selling traditional rice cakes, dolls etc.   FYI - we were the only gaijin (foreigners) to be seen anywhere although we did see a few other (German tourists) by the Buddha later in the day.  Lunch was amazing, although we erroneously ordered the chicken skin skewers (what the heck??) instead of chicken breast skewers for G.  He shared my miso, rice and teriyaki chicken instead.  Roy's lunch is pictured below. 

After lunch we set off for The Great Buddha via bus as G was not about to make the 1/2 hour trek on foot.  In Tokyo it is not uncommon to hear English spoken in shops and restaurants, in Kamakura this was not the case at all so the Husband and I tried out our Japanese 101 (not pretty) in an effort to navigate the bus.  We arrived at The Great Buddha in one piece, so considered ourselves successful.  The seated Buddha, Amida Nyorai is known by the familiar name of the Kamakura Daibutsu and was once housed in a temple that was swept away by a tsunami and thus now stands alone.  Construction began in 1252 and took about ten years.  It's height is approximately 13.4 meters (44 feet for my american peeps) and it is awesome when you first see it.  We washed our hands (left, right, left and then cleanse mouth with water from the left), threw coins into box (see G below) and after paying 20 yen (25 cents?), we even went inside to see the construction.  Too dark for photos.  

Stopped for ice cream at a local shop where ironically they had a "hablamos espanol" sign out front and had delicious ice cream cones before our trip back to Tokyo.  G crashed out immediately upon entering the train and I spent the almost hour long trip speaking with an older Japanese woman who expressed her 1. surprise at seeing a family of foreigners on the train and 2. her gratitude and appreciation for American support and aid in this time of Japan's need.  She was lovely - so gracious, well spoken and again so appreciative of all the support from the US and she asked me repeatedly to convey this to my American friends (here you go..).   All in all, a great day trip and I'm looking forward to our next adventure.  Until next time....

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