This weekend we got to do some heavy sight seeing, all with the help of Brent’s boss, who took along his family too. We went to Kamakura, an area very close to Enoshima, where we went the previous weekend. Kamakura is known for its abundance of temples and shrines. To get here, we had to take our usual train, meet our guides, and switch trains. We had to go on an older train line, and at one point we were on the street with the other cars!
First, we went to see the Great Buddha.
This impressive buddha is known as the Kamakura Daibutsu. Its construction began in 1252 and its construction technique was fairly new and innovative. It used to be covered in gold and housed in it’s own temple. The temple was destroyed in the 1300s by storms.
Next, we went to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, one of the most important and famous shrines in Kamakura.
This is a shrine dedicated to Hachiman, and was founded by Minamoto Yoriyoshi. It was founded in 1063 and moved to this site in 1180. This was a very bright, colorful, and cheerful shrine, much different than what we saw that day.
There was a couple getting married! It was a traditional Japanese ceremony right in the middle of tourists and sight seers.
We moved on to see some temples. Temples are much more subdued and serious, focused on nature and is often still used in some capacity. The ones we saw were used in Zen training. There were several buildings in each site.
This one is the Kencho-ji temple, and it is one of the five great Zen temples in Kamakura. Zen monks are still trained here today
The final one we saw was probably the most “zen” in feeling. It was up high in the hills and was a sprawling area with several buildings, and lots of stairs to climb. Tons of hydrangeas were everywhere, and it was very serene and beautiful.
It is called Engaku-ji and it is the head temple of the Engaku sect of Zen.
On the pamphlet was this quote, which I think sums up the whole experience of seeing the temples:
“The fact that we are living here, now, in the present – this is the true meaning of the existence of Buddha. Nothing is more precious than this. How marvelous this is! How important this is to realize from the bottom of one’s heart! This is the way in which all of us, each in our own fashion, will awaken to the truth and each live, in our own way, a cheerful and happy life. This is the teaching of Zen.”
This was a packed day, and it helped Brent and I understand the source of some traditions and way of life the Japanese people still carry on today. It was beautiful and serene, and even though I was soaking in sweat, I managed to not get crabby and truly enjoy this rich cultural experience.