Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Kamakura Part 2

So, I've been in Japan almost two years now. I've seen a lot of temples. Temples in Kyoto, Koya-san, Nagoya, Kanazawa and more. In one respect, there is only so many ways to make a temple distinct, and after a while they all rather blend together. That said, there is still something profoundly enjoyable about temple hopping. At least, I think there is.

It's a damn good thing I think so, as Kamakura is about as full of temples as any other city I've seen. Luckily for me, most of them were really nice, with big beautiful gardens and majestic wooden buildings. Of course, they still kind of all ran together in my mind, but I still remember having a fantastic time, once it stopped raining.

After a snack of sweet potato ice cream, we rented bikes to make our temple hopping easier. While you'd think this was a fantastic idea, it turned out a little less so. For one, the main drag was so packed with pedestrians that our bicycles conveyed almost no speed advantage. For another, the massive hills that dot the city made me cry tears of pain and suffering as we labored our one speed POS- 9000 bikes up the severe slopes.

Often enough we opted to just walk up, and sometimes down, the forbiddingly incanted inclines. However, navigating the pleasantly wooded lanes and byways provided a very engaging and fun day. No stress, no recriminations, just wandering up and down and around the town, viewing temples, sweating up the hills, and blowing by startled pedestrians on the down slopes!

I did have one goal that day, to see the Zeniarai Benten Shrine. For one, I wanted to get a little Shinto equal time in all the Buddhist temple viewing, and for another, it sounded pretty interesting. It took us a lot of biking up and down hills to find it though, as the map wasn't terribly useful, and I'll admit even with my excellent sense of directions, I got turned around a few times. Oops. If we hadn't found it by the last draining hill climb, I'm sure Sachiko would have tried to box me about the head with her umbrella. If she had the energy. It really was quite the ride, and the afternoon had been turning rather sticky.

The shrine itself was worth all the sweating and wandering it took to find it. We had to walk down a long tunnel through the rock to a delightful little open area surrounded by high ridges. After offering a sacrifice of incense you enter a little grotto and wash your money in the sacred spring. Then, after you spend the money it will be returned to you double. Unfortunately for myself, I only had about 237 yen in my pocket. Next time I'll bring a whole barrel of 500 yen coins!

While there was going to be some sort of festival later on, we both decided that it was high time to beat feet back to Tokyo and get some dinner. The long days hard walking and biking had taken quite the toll on us! All in all, it really was a fantastic weekend in a fantastic little city.

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