October 30, 2012


If you'll recall from a previous post, the giant Buddha in Kamakura closes at 4pm and I therefore missed it during my last trip to the beach town. I was unsure why an outdoor statue closes and now after visiting, I am still confused. The 93 ton statue is in no danger of being stolen.

Anyway, I happily travelled back to Kamakura in order to check a goal off the list. I had been enchanted with the place when Kelly, Taylor and I visited a few weeks ago, so I was eager to do a bit more exploring.
One of the reasons I love Kamakura: a surf town/cultural landmark
In order to get to the Buddha, I took an old electric rail-car that has become somewhat of a landmark itself. It crept into the station, squeaking and coughing until it came to a very ungraceful stop. Hundreds of school children swarmed into the cars and I found my place between a group of adorably dressed youngsters.
New friends
The train arrived at the station and I hopped off, eager to find the giant Buddha. I followed the crowd up the main street and onto a large plot of land that was segregated from the modern buildings. I paid my 200 yen and started up the hill. I passed many magnificent shrines and statues on my way to the giant Buddha:
Roots crept over and under the pathway leading up to the Buddha

Hundreds of Mr. Magoos
Every tier of this monument was more beautiful than the last
The shrine atop the hill
I had trekked up through beautiful gardens, passed coy-filled ponds and many statues of other deities in search of the giant Buddha of Kamakura. When I finally arrived at the top and found the giant Buddha that rested in the temple, I was immediately shocked.

"That's not so big."

I would show you how not so big it was, but photographs were prohibited.

"Why would they prohibit pictures of one of the most famous statues in Japan?"

Something wasn't right.

I had decided not to lookup the Giant Buddha of Kamakura earlier in the day because I wanted to be surprised when I first saw it. I figured seeing it for the first time in real life would be a lot more powerful than if I had viewed photographs online. But I had seen one photo when I made my list and it was not in a shrine. Or rather, not in the last 500 years, as a tsunami had washed away the structure surrounding the Buddha in 1498.

Wait a second, this giant Buddha wasn't the Giant Buddha of Kamakura. How many fucking Buddhas can one town have?

I walked over and enjoyed the view for a moment before heading back down the hill. I decided to treat myself to something nice since this had been a minor let-down. I settled on a green tea, purple yam swirl ice cream. It was fantastic.

The taste of failure is pretty good.
I checked my watch and discovered I still had 30 minutes before The Giant Buddha went to sleep, so I asked around and was finally pointed in the right direction.
Do you see what I see?
A large incense burner filled the air with pleasant fragrances
I found him!
And for only 20 yen, I was able to go inside the hollow bronze Buddha.
I doubt there were any 6'2' Japanese people in 1252.
Becoming one with the Buddha
I must say, the experience of seeing the Giant Buddha of Kamakura in real life was probably comparable to seeing pictures of the Giant Buddha of Kamakura on my blog. I didn't have much of a connection with the statue, but was able to admire the craftsmanship and lasting power of the work. That, and I got to check something off my list!

To be honest, the real reason I wanted to return to Kamakura was to find a shop I had passed briefly when I was there last.

I am sure there are many who have visited The GBK and been moved. I was not one of them. But when I entered this Studio Ghibli store and the music from Totoro began to play, I immediately began to feel emotionally vulnerable. My heart became heavy, but not necessarily from sadness. Perhaps from comfort. It seems silly to write that a store filled with plush dolls and figurines made me so emotional, but these are movies that I truly love. There is an indescribable beauty to all of Miyazaki's films, but My Neighbor Totoro has especially stayed with me since I first viewed it. 

It was hard not to spend every yen I had on me at this store but I somehow managed to leave only with a present and a very long list for Santa.
If that face doesn't make you melt then you need to watch MNT.
A yen-spending trap!
A Totoro coo-coo clock?!

A familiar face
Shut up and take my money!
The only Uggs I can support

On the trip home I ran into someone I knew (58). I do not recall his name, but he's a Dutch gentleman I had met at the Swedish Embassy last week. We chatted for a few stops before I had to get out. I am not checking goal 58 off my list though for the same reason I didn't check it off when I ran into someone I met at a Gaba interview a few days ago: these are people I know are in Japan. When I wrote that goal, the implication was that I wanted to run into someone I know who is not a new friend from Japan. So if you're reading this and want to help me accomplish my goal, secretly come to Japan and then follow my blog until you find me.

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