Monday, November 23, 2009

Land of the Great Buddha

After a fairly restful day on Sunday, Andrew, my dad and I were ready to head out on the Japanese trains for another day trip to Kamakura and Enoshima.

Andrew caught on quickly to the Japanese ticket and turnstile system and readily complied with my request to capture his first Japanese train ride:

With the help of my dad's memory and a map, we successfully made it to Kamakura. As Monday was a national holiday for Japanese, the streets were flooded with people heading towards the same temple that we were going to:

As Kamakura served as one of Japan's capital cities in the past, it is filled with tons of historic shrines and temples. By far, the most famous is Kotokuin Temple, which features a giant Buddha which measures 11.312 meters in height (my rough calculations are putting that at around 34 feet high):
The pictures don't do it justice - I can't tell you how impressive it is to stand there in person and gaze upon the Buddha. It sounds a bit corny but even with the holiday masses swarming around us, you do get a sense of peace from the Buddha:

One section that's not so peaceful is a little exhibit hidden at the back of the temple featuring a Korean Kannon statue in the back that was (my words) stolen during Japan's occupation of Korea in the early 20th century. It remains locked behind a wooden door so you can barely see it, but the picture was clear enough to make my mom and Korean aunt angry when they visited the same exhibit earlier this year.

The structure behind us is what houses the Kannon statue - as you can see, my dad and I were calmer about the whole situation and it was tough to get too angry in what is truly a tranquil environment:

Back to the Great Buddha, Andrew and I couldn't miss the chance to go inside:

For a mere 20 yen each, we were able to squeeze ourselves on a narrow stairway that lead to the interior of the Buddha - the cavity you see in the wall leads to the Buddha's head:

Andrew was a good sport about visiting the interior, despite getting squished on the stairwell by hordes of tourists:

Finally, no visit to a temple or shrine is complete without visiting their souvenir stand at the end. One of my favorite gifts is to give a charm that has been blessed for a particular purpose, which is why Andrew got one for safe traffic (no car accidents) on one of my last trips to Japan when he had just bought a new car. On this visit, Andrew ended up buying the strong legs charm (which is funny if you know him) on the upper right hand corner as well as for healing up for his grandfather:

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