Kamakura, Part 2: Hasedera, and the Daibutsu of Kamakura

This is post #5 of our Tokyo-Seoul trip, for the second half of Tuesday, November 7, 2017, a continuation of the previous post.

After walking back to the station, we are hungry and tired and maybe even a little bit hangry, so we both hit the gift shop looking for something to eat.  It’s a maze, so we miss each other coming out (typical) but eventually reunite.  I bought two drinks, which we guzzle down and Dave bought a French pastry with chocolate chips — er, red beans.  Still can’t get used to finding beans in all my food.  We join the other masses of school children to ride the Enoden, the electric train.  We all pile on when it arrives, and it’s a noisy, happy two-stop ride to where we get off.


We are headed to the Hasedera Temple, but we all wait on the platfrom for the train to pass, then go down the steps, crossing the other tracks, and through the trestle-arm gates. TokyoSeoul3_17a

We turn left by the tsunami signs (sobering, as I watched many videos of the tsumani that hit Japan in 2011) and walk a short distance to the shrine. As with so many of these shrines and temples, the origins read much like my religion’s crickets-and-seagulls story, examples of God’s divine providence, but perhaps unintelligible to other peoples from other lands.  This one had to do with a sacred large camphor tree, a stump carved like a Kannon statue which was then thrown into the sea only later returning, and a temple constructed to honor and house it.  We enter the grounds, pay our entry fee and start up a winding path to the top of the hill.

Along the way were many small statues: “Along the steps to the Kannondo are statues of a much less monumental size but perhaps greater visual impact. All around are rows of small statues of Jizo, the guardian deity of children. Historically, parents came to Hasedera to set up these statues in hopes the deity would protect and watch over their children.  Today, though, the Jizo statues represent the souls of miscarried, stillborn or aborted children. Some of the statues are dressed in bibs, hand-knitted caps and sweaters. More than 50,000 Jizo statues have been offered here since the war, but the thousand or so currently displayed will remain only a year before being burned or buried to make way for others.” (from here)


Small reflecting pond next to the garden of statues


I bit and bought one of these. Who wouldn’t want a “perfect state of health” and “success in life”?

Sign at one turn of the steps on the way up to the Kannon-do Hall, at the top of the site.


This was my favorite of the temples, with its stark black-and-white, the pristine nature of the grounds and the view to the sea. It’s sometimes easy to forget we are on an island:


I do like the vermillion temples, but this was so different looking. Inside the main hall is a giant goddess of Mercy statue (no photos allowed, except for the one from the tourist site, below).


from the Kamakura Visitors Site

I was attracted to a small area to the side, where you could write down the name of a woman who had had a miscarriage and submit it (with a small fee) to the priests, who would pray for the mother and the unborn baby.  I thought of my daughter and all the miscarriages she’d had before getting her last child over a decade ago.  I could see her coming to this place, and writing down her name here.  But we also have collections of names in our Latter-day Saint temples that we pray for, and we don’t need to offer up money.  Her name was in those temples a lot in those days.


This shrine was originally dedicated to Kojin, the god of the cooking stove and fire, but it has been rebranded as Inari-sha, due to the presence of the oyster shells attached to the carved stump that found its way back to the land (all info is from the brochure).


More places of homage.



Bussokuseki (stone engraved with the Buddha’s footprint)

I sat and waited for my book to be signed (or, I waited for my “go-shuin”), while Dave explored the grounds.  He saw the small smiling statues, the footprint of Buddha, the Benten-jutsu Cave and other sights:

TokyoSeoul3_28aThese ice creams in the vending machine are tempting, as I am flagging because of no lunch, but we press on.

We leave the Hasedera Temple and walk up the hill to the Kotokuin Temple, pay the money and enter.  Immediately we can glimpse the giant Buddha.  We are there with (it seems) entire legions of elementary school children, who are happy and noisy and very charming.  (I wonder if American schoolchildren are this polite.)


I head to the building to the right to get my go-shuin; Dave sits down on one of the big rocks in the area, while I take photos and explore.


Apparently you can go inside (for an additional fee) the Daibutsu of Kamakura (what they call it).  Cast in about 1252, he has sat in the open air since around 1492, when the temple that used to surround him was destroyed.

Great Buddha woodblock

Ando Hiroshige: An Exposed Buddhist Image of Josenji Temple, Great Buddha at Kamakura, c. 1820–50

A woodblock from the late 19th century shows one view, but all the trees are grown now, so we couldn’t see the sea from this temple. However, we did see many schoolchildren.


I wanted to take a photo of one young man’s hat ON him, and asked him (that old thing where I think they understand English).  He takes off his hat, and says, with eyes downcast, “Sorry.”

I realize he thinks I’m telling him to take off his hat in deference to the Buddha.  I hold up my iPhone.  “No,” I smile “Photo?” and his friend whaps him on the arm and says something in Japanese with the word “foto” in it.

He grins and let me take the photo of his hat.  I still remember the time in Dubrovnik when the little boy, well-trained by his parents to deal with pesky tourists, screamed NOOOOOOOO!! when someone asked to take his photo.  I’m more cautious now.

I do wish I had a hat with a slogan that reads “Every Day Full of Drive.”


Less shy young women.

I picked up my signing book, Dave, and we head toward the bus.


These are the school children of the Pink Bandanna.


Dave snaps this photo as we leave; when we look at it later, the monk’s expression seems to say “You tourists.”


We pass a “Stitch” shop on the way to the train station.


You can see the divide here right down the center of the subway train car, as people face toward the windows.

TokyoSeoul3_tired woman

She likes ruched flowers.



TokyoSeoul3_Kabuki TheaterUp on the street, the neon lights start their performances, and we think about dinner.


This is about a one-minute walk from our hotel/subway stop, and we decide to try it out, given our success yesterday.  Note the wax food display on the outside, left.


Where are the chopsticks?  In a little drawer on the table, underneath the condiments.  Dave has vegetable ramen, I had tonkatsu and we share lightly refried rice and six gyoza, which were really delicious.  The whole meal hit the spot.


Two specials.  Or something.  Right as we finish, the lady at the next table lights up a cigarette.  Apparently smoking is not allowed on the street, but okay in this restaurant during these hours:


No smoking on the first floor between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m, and on the 2nd floor between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.  We asked about these hours; apparently it’s so women and their children aren’t exposed to second-hand smoke, or at least it’s what the hotel clerk told us.


We walk the block to our hotel, and enter the elevator, knowing that we are being watched:


I lay my collection of ema and go-shuin on the bed and admire them all.  I still have my treasured books from our last trip, and now have another new one for my collection.


I record today’s purchases, and write in my journal.  And I hope for a good night’s sleep for tomorrow’s a big day: Dave starts his conference and I try to find my way to buy a Blythe doll.


Kamakura • Part 1: Hokokuji, Jomyoji, and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Temples

This is post #4 of our Tokyo-Seoul trip, for the first part of Tuesday, November 7, 2017.


Just to remind myself: I am in a different country.  Good morning, Tokyo.  Today is Kamakura Day!


We squared away our travel on Hyperdia, got ourselves ready and headed to City Bakery to get our breakfast to go. TokyoSeoul3_1b

From the City Bakery, we had a wild walk through the tunnels of the Shimbashi Station through throngs of commuters–snaking up and down and around, 10 and 12 deep in lines coming down the stairs, just waiting to get down on the platform.  Tokyo rush hour at its finest.  I would have stopped to take a photo, but we were rushing to make the train for Kurihama (Kamakura).


It was a crush, and I admired this fellow’s set-up, of head-on-pole-for-a-rest.  But the farther out into the country we headed, the more room there was on the trains (the journey to Kamakura was about 60 minutes).  A young family with two boys — one more gregarious (read: out of control) than the other — were also in our car, and they spoke English.

We struck up a conversation and found out the young mother had grown up in Japan, but now lived in New York City on Staten Island; the children were being “World Schooled.”  I later wondered to Dave if that means that the parents just wanted to travel the world during school time, and not be tied down.  I had to wonder what the boys would remember.  The young mother shared with us their itinerary (below), which was thoughtful.  We must have looked more lost than we felt.  The train came to a stop and she told us that this was the station, and we should get off.


We stopped at the Visitor’s Center and after buying our two bus passes, we looked for a place to eat our breakfast, which of course, this being Japan, there are no easy places to eat unless you are in a restaurant or in your home.


So, dorky tourists that we are, we sat down on the bus station bench and ate our breakfast (the green letter “B” on the map below).  Then we ambled back to the train station and caught the small tram out to our first stop.

Kamakura Map

Overview of our day: five stops


The tram was really crowded, but at the first stop many left.  We continued on to Hokikuji, the “bamboo forest” temple.


The tram stopped across the street, and the entrances were well-marked.TokyoSeoul3_2TokyoSeoul3_2c

This is what we saw when entering the temple area.


To our right were discreet signs blocking entrance.


The building directly in front of us, also had elegant structures, restricting our entrance.


But the more faithful paused and said their prayers.  Usually they let you get close enough to throw the money into the box with the slotted top, but even that wasn’t available.  We proceeded further to the left, to an open window.   I handed them my book; they handed me a tag with a number on it; there was also a charge to get my Shuin-cho (folded signature book) signed (300 Yen). We found out that they charged entry for this temple (200 Yen, about $1.80/person); we paid up and entered.


Even their pathways show great attention to detail.


We enter the bamboo forest.  It’s smaller than we thought (when they say “forest,” we Americans imagine something along the order of the Amazon), but quiet and beautiful.  This species of bamboo, “moso,” is the biggest kind of bamboo reaching heights of 92 feet; it is originally from China.


There are many small shrines along the pathway, which led up a small rise, near some “yagura,” which is a cave to accommodate tombs, but we really couldn’t see into it.


The grounds are beautiful, with a koi pond, and beautiful trees, which were being trimmed that day:


We saw three other school girls along the short path through the forest, and we kept dodging them.  Finally I offered to take their photo (not the group above), and they offered to take ours.


We try to get a “Christmas Card” photo on every trip, and were happy to have a candidate so early in our travels; we did end up using this one.


The short walk over, we collect my book, and head out, landing ourselves in the accompanying graveyard.


This being Japan, and this being a long day of being on the go, when I saw the sign for restroom, I took advantage of it.



Okay, not this one.  I found a Westernized toilet in one of the three stalls, and was also happy to notice that they provided toilet paper.  As I near the toilet, the sound of running water starts up from a speaker next to the toilet.  Whether it’s to encourage quick use of the facilities, or disguise any sounds, I don’t know.

Street scenes: manhole covers, and a Hello Kitty blanket hanging from the balcony.  I try not to look around too much because in all the tourist brochures we have strict instructions:

  • Please visit shrines and temples in a calm and quiet manner.
  • On the streets in town, please be careful not to bother the residents.
  • Please mind the people around you when eating and drinking on the streets.
  • And my favorite: Please take home your own garbage, do not leave them.

We did carry around a “garbage bag” into which we put our trash, as public trash cans are few and far in-between.



We walked from Hokokuji (Bamboo temple) across the street to the Jomyoji Temple, mainly because it was…right across the street.  Again, we leave our book at the front little building, and walk around to go in.  A group of tourists was just coming out and one of them, a man, called out, “Don’t go there!”  After ten minutes, we’d seen just about everything, so he was mostly right.


I liked their water spout systems–much prettier than a gutter snaking down the wall.


While the temples don’t really let you in, some visitors take their shoes off at the top step, some don’t.  All bring their hands together and bow.  They were serving tea inside one of these buildings, something we guessed was part of a tourist tour, so we crept about.


A funeral had just ended, and we hung back to see the priest, and the patrons (below) climb up the hill into the cemetary.


Leaving Jomyoji.  The place where we left the book is to the right at the bottom of the stairs (where the young man is headed).  Price for this one: 100 Yen (a little less than a dollar), but the book was 300 Yen (a little less than $3).

Walking down the street toward the bus stop, we heard some sounds coming from over the wall.  Looking over, we saw a man in waders with a week-whacker, trimming up the stream’s vegetation.  Vaguely hungry, we entertained the idea of eating a “garden of herbs, wild flowers and vegetables,” but settled for buying a bottled drink at the vending machine next to the bus stop.

The bus took the corner and dropped us about a block away from the entrance.  We swam upstream against a group of school girls, all dressed in matching uniforms.  By the end of the day, we could identify whose parents spent the most on their schooling, with the top of the ranking being the complete matching uniforms (like the ones above), moving downward to matching shirts only, and from there on down to matching kerchiefs around their necks, ending up with matching color of hats.  My children would have been in the latter category, for sure.


Dave got a great shot of the scramble crosswalks in front of the torii gate, the large red structure marking the transition from the mundane to the sacred.


A good map of the grounds of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.  After walking through the torii gate, there is a long open walkway with booths selling items: desserts, cotton candy, ice cream, loose bins of candy (fill your own bag), and pineapples.


Dave patiently waits for me while I purchase some stars; happily we seem to be over our “first-day adjustment phase.”


After the open yard with the booths, we approach this series of buildings: the temizuya (water purification basin), the maiden (lower worship hall), and the Shrine Office.


Wikipedia gives some details about the purification font:

“A chōzuya or temizuya (手水舎) is a Shinto water ablution pavilion for a ceremonial purification rite known as temizu.  Water-filled basins, called chōzubachi, are used by worshippers for washing their left hands, right hands, mouth and finally the handle of the water ladle to purify themselves before approaching the main Shinto shrine or shaden (社殿). This symbolic purification is normal before worship and all manned shrines have this facility, as well as many Buddhist temples and some new religious houses of worship.  The temizuya is usually an open area where clear water fills one or various stone basins. Wooden dippers are usually available to worshippers.  Originally, this purification was done at a spring, stream or seashore and this is still considered the ideal. Worshippers at the Inner Shrine at Ise still use this traditional way of ablution.”

I’m in love with the vermillion-painted buildings, with shiny brass fittings and decorative painting.


In this view, the shide, or paper streamers, hang down from the rice rope around the top.


Dave sends me over to where I can get my book signed (to the left of the tented area), and wanders around while I stand in the long line.  He comes back and holds my place while I buy an ema for this place.  They have two colors of wooden gingko leaves; I buy the green, but will forever wonder why I didn’t buy the gold…or both. I rejoin him in line in time for the monk to sign my book.TokyoSeoul3_10aTokyoSeoul3_10b

And then I shyly put forward my ema for him to write on, which kind of blows his mind, as it’s totally against what is supposed to happen.  He explains, kindly, and in Japanese that I’m to write my own prayer, and I, kindly, and in English, ask him to write the symbol of the temple on the ema.  After a bit of back and forth, and me offering to pay again, he does, but I’m sure he thinks I’m a bit nuts.



Children of the Matching Hats


Dave had gone over to the flower show on the side of the temple grounds.


These were amazing–the large sprays overflowing the table are all grown from one plant.  They also had displays of different types of flowers:


And up the steps we go to the main shrine, or Hongu.TokyoSeoul3_12bTokyoSeoul3_12cTokyoSeoul3_12dTokyoSeoul3_12e

It’s huge, ornate, and again, no photos of the interior.  This present building was erected in 1828, according to the brochure I carry around.


Green? or Gold? I’m still debating, but am not going back down the steps to get another.


We already did this dance at Asakusa.


There are multiple of small red buildings on this site; I stop trying to figure them out, or why they are important, and just enjoy the visuals.


To the left of the Hongu are these toriis; we head up to the Maruyama-Inarisha Shrine, which is dedicated to the deity of harvest.TokyoSeoul3_14aTokyoSeoul3_14bTokyoSeoul3_14cTokyoSeoul3_14dTokyoSeoul3_14e

Is it wrong to covet ema?  If I could have figure out how to buy one of these in a torii shape, I would have.


We head down the backway, onto a small street that brings us back around to the main area.  We head to the bus stop, sort of wondering about lunch, or something, as we were ready for a break, and were hot and a bit tired.


While we were waiting at the bus stop, a man comes out of the rickshaw shop and says “It’s only a five-minute walk to the station.”  We thank him, and continue waiting.  Then another random man comes up to us and says “A couple of minutes walk is all,” and gestures vaguely down the street towards the station.  We decide to walk.


And after five minutes walking facing the sun, we decided we were played, that the helpful locals could safely be categorized as bending the truth.  It was a 20 minute walk, but we made it.

Next up: Kamakura, Part 2.