Thursday, 13 March 2014

Kamakura's Big Buddha and Other Family

My parents are visiting this week so it has been sightseeing central. I have plenty to catch up on but since they are still here will content myself with a small peek at what we did yesterday. My friend Noriko very kindly took us off for the day to Kamakura which is a seaside town about three times the size of what I would think of as a UK seaside town since everything in Japan is either on a much larger or much smaller scale than anything in the UK. It has many shrines as well as lots of craft shops, a large sandy beach for surfing, views of Mt Fuji (only on clear days - alas not when we were there) and restaurants a plenty. It is an hour by train from Tokyo and is definitely worth a visit. Having grown up by the sea it was lovely to go back, even just for a few hours.
Kamakura Beach
The weather was idyllic - the warmest day of the year so far - and the waves seemed to be good as the sea was full of surfers, even on a weekday. However, our first stop was inland. We got there, rounded a corner, and behold...
Kamakura Buddha
The effect of rounding a corner and seeing this kind of thing in the flesh is hard to describe. As we were leaving I watched others and there was always the pause, the widening eyes and the mouth slightly open. You know to expect him, but then suddenly there he is.
Kamakura Buddha
Photos really do not do justice to him. It sounds terribly twee, but there really is a feeling of extreme serenity as you look at him. I am not a terribly spiritual person and have no religion, but I felt very strongly that if I had the time I could quite happily sit there for hours looking at him, at the sky, at the trees, at the birds, and think lazy thoughts about nothing in particular and be very happy while doing so.
Kamakura Buddha
Some school children from another part of Japan had recently made him a pair of traditional slippers. You see these in paintings from the Edo period and they are still sold in many traditional shops around Japan.
Kamakura Buddha's Sandals
Although of course very few of them are made for this sized foot. This pair were a lot taller than me.

The Buddha himself dates from 1252 and his story is told on a wall plaque.
Kamakura Buddha
I felt rather humbled by such an amazing...I'm not sure of the right word. Creation? Symbol? Icon? He seems too present to be just called a statue or something inanimate.

The rest of our day in Kamakura was spent in beautiful but rather less epic pursuits. It did however, in a way that brought me back to earth and reminded me of my true calling in life, bring me my first "Beware of the Cat" sign.
Beware of the Cat Sign
This was near another shrine we visited. Apparently the cats have a tendency to run out into the road. Earlier in the week I had taken my parents to the Calico Cat Cafe and bought Rob a pot of food without first warning him what the effect would be.
parents at the cat cafe
There was a cute stampede towards him. Fnah fnah.

Sadly they go back to the UK at the weekend so normal blogging will resume after that. Today Rob has gone off to the Railway Museum with Mr Pooch so Mum and I are going craft shopping in Asakusabashi and Nippori and then on to Harajuku for Tokyo's biggest 100 Yen shop. I took her to a smaller one in Shinjuku on Monday and she caught the bug! They really are rather wonderful places, especially when your previous experience of such things has been the UK's Poundland. There is just no comparison and I have to keep reminding myself that all the craft bits I find in them are only 65p a pop.

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