Day 6:    Kamakura Karma

Main Page   > 2013 Adventures in the Land of the Rising Fun ! >

Refreshed from a local day in Tokyo, Mike and Bone headed out of the T-Cube for the last day of the Adventures in the Land of the Rising Fun Tour.  As every other trip on this adventure, Mike and Bone jumped on a non-bullet Train this time for a two hour trip south along the coast to the other ancient capital of the land of the Nihon-ji, Kama Kura!!

On the way down Bone explained to Mike what he had learned about Kama Kura since he moved to Japan.

Kamakura:  Home of John Belushi !?!

In a short time, Bone had learned a lot about Kamakura, in addition to being a very amazing place by the sea with mountains rolling down to the seas (very similar to Carmel, California!) there is tons of history. One of the well known facts is that the Japanese Samurai, popularized by John Belushi in Saturday Night Live (really ?!?) has its roots in Kamakura. Beginning in the mid-12th century, real political power in Japan shifted gradually away from the emperor and his nobles in Kyoto to the heads of the clans on their large estates in the country.

The Gempei War (1180-1185) pitted two of these great clans–the dominant Taira and the Minamoto–against each other in a struggle for control of the Japanese state.

The war ended when one of the most famous samurai heroes in Japanese history, Minamoto Yoshitsune, led his clan to victory against the Taira near the village of Dan-no-ura. The triumphant leader Minamoto Yoritomo–half-brother of Yoshitsune, whom he drove into exile, established the center of his new government at Kamakura. The establishment of the Kamakura Shogunate, a hereditary military dictatorship, shifted all real political power in Japan to the samurai. As Yoritomo’s authority depended on their strength, he went to great lengths to establish and define the samurai’s privileged status; no one could call himself a samurai without Yoritomo’s permission.

Zen Buddhism, introduced into Japan from China around this time, held a great appeal for many samurai. Its austere and simple rituals, as well as the belief that salvation would come from within, provided an ideal philosophical background for the samurai’s own code of behavior. Also during the Kamakura period, the sword came to have a great significance in samurai culture. A man’s honor was said to reside in his sword, and the craftsmanship of swords–including carefully hammered blades, gold and silver inlay and sharkskin handgrips–became an art in itself. Everywhere in Kamakura was signs, symbols, and tourist gifts of Samurai's.

Checking out the Samurai exhibits at the Train Station gave Mike and Bone a pre-view of the whole day in Kamakura, but before they checked out the city, they jumped on ANOTHER train, an electric train for the twenty minutes ride south of Kamakura City Center to the enchanted island of Enoshima!

Exiting the Enoden (Enoshima Electric Railway) Early

The trip along the coast was simply amazing; blue skies rolling hills, big waves, fresh air, unfortunately Bone-headed Bone was too enraptured in the scenery, and got off about a mile off from the island, so the Boys had an opportunity for some unplanned exercise!!!

Mount Fuji, lurking in the background!

However it was not a bad thing to walk that morning since the weather was somewhat surreal, it was about 70 degrees and sunny, with a nice breeze coming off of the Pacific Ocean, as the Boys walked along the shore, there were surfers every where in the Ocean, which made it feel more like a summer day in Los Angeles!  As the Boys walked along off in the distance came the ghostly image of Mount Fuji! Making the walk and vista a very, very cool place!!

Enoshima Island !!!

Entering Enchanting Enoshima Island

Eventually (really in only twenty minutes!) the Boys made it to the Bridge and over on to the Island. Enoshima Island has been long recognized, along with Kamakura, as a center of sightseeing in the Shoran area and has prospered as a religious location since long ago before becoming a Mecca for tourists after World War II.

Enoshima Jinjya Shrine is also famous for enshrining Enoshima Benzaiten, which is one of the three famous Benzaiten in Japan, which was the Boys objective!

But what the heck is a Benzaiten !?!

A Bridge not too Far!

 Korny Lunch!! 

Soon as the Boys crossed over the Bridge there was a number of tourist stores and outdoor eateries. Thoughts of what a Benzaiten were put on hold because since all Mike and Bone had for Breakfast was coffee and since it was close to 11:00 AM, the Boys decided to make an unscheduled Benzaiten stop to buy some seafood and a couple ears of corn for a tasty lunch. Sated, Mike and Bone headed up a steep set of stairs, all for worshiping a water goddess !?! 

 The Enoshima Benzaiten

Oh yeah!!  Mike and Bone were trying to figure out what a Benzaiten is! A Benzaiten is modern Japan's preeminent water goddess, one worshipped independently and as one of Japan's Seven Lucky Gods of wealth and good fortune. Her temples and shrines are, befittingly, nearly always in the neighborhood of water -- the sea, a river, a lake, or a pond. Among the myriad sanctuaries devoted to her, the three most widely known today are those at Enoshima (near Kamakura), Itsukushima (Miyajima, Hiroshima), and Chikubushima (Lake Biwa, Shiga) -- all islands. The three are collectively known as the Three Great Benten Sanctuaries.

The Azuma Kagami an official Japanese record of the Kamakura era describing events between 1180 and 1266, says the famed warrior Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1199) sought divine assistance from Benzaiten at Enoshima. Minamoto reportedly asked the Buddhist monk Mongaku to make this statue to curse his enemies. Since the Edo period, it has been prayed to by samurai seeking protection on the battle field and victory in war. After Minamoto's invocation of the deity and the installation of the statue, the complex came to be called Kinkizan Yoganji Temple.

Says independent researcher Kondo Takahiro: "Minamoto named it Kinkizan Yoganji, a Shingon-sect Buddhist temple.......It was founded as a sub-temple of Ninnaji Temple in Kyoto. To the newly enshrined Benten, he prayed for victory over the Fujiwara clan,  that was then powerful and grew near to rivaling the Minamoto up in Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture, in the northern part of Honshu. Yoritomo's prayer was answered. With his victory over the Fujiwara clan in 1189, the Benten goddess was reputed for her ability to fulfill the wishes of worshipers. The temple gained people's faith and was more popularly called 'Enoshima Benten' rather than Yoganji.

Mike and Bone Worshipping Benzaiten ?!?

Despite checking out the very cool scenery and Shrine,  Mike and Bone just didn't get the religious revelation that certain Japanese leaders had on the Island!

One of the million Buddhist Temples in the Kamakura area on the Enoden Line

It was getting on in the afternoon and as cool as the Island was, they had yet to hit Kamakura! Getting back on the Enoden Line, the Boys headed on back towards Kamakura. They got off about a half mile before City Center to check out a couple of things you really could not leave Japan without seeing !

Hanging Out at Hase-dera !

About 1 quarter of a mile up a fairly steep hill is the very famous Hase-dera Temples, which is one of the great Buddhist temples in Kamakura and is known for housing a massive wooden statue of Kannon.

The Temple originally belonged to the Tendai sect of Buddhism, but eventually became an independent temple of the Jōdo shū sect.

The Gold-Plated Statue of Kannon

Mike and Bone checked out the Temple and of course the statue, which is one of the largest wooden statues in Japan, with a height of over thirty feet, it is made from camphor wood and gilded in gold. It has 11 heads, each of which represents a different phase in the search for enlightenment.

According to legend, the statue is one of two images of Kannon carved by a monk named Tokudō in 721. The camphor tree was so large, according to legend, that he decided that he could carve two statues with it. One was enshrined in Hase-dera in the city of Nara, Yamato Province, while the other was set adrift in the sea to find the place that it had a karmic connection with. It washed ashore on Nagai Beach on the Miura Peninsula near Kamakura in the year 736.

The statue was immediately brought to Kamakura where a temple was built to honor it. Now Mike and Bone are noted to be low creatures, but they were about to be tested in the Benten Kutsi Cave!

Benten Kutsu Cave 

The temple is built on two levels and also includes an underground cave. The cave, called Benten Kutsu, contains a long winding tunnel with a low ceiling and various statues and devotionals to Benzaiten, the sea goddess and the only female of the Seven Lucky Gods in Japanese mythology. Now the caves were probably the right height for 12th century samurai, but 21st century Gaijin, smacking your head is a distinct possibility! With Bone getting whacked on the head two days ago at the Silver Pavilion, both Mike and Bone tread very carefully!!

While the Cave was very cool, neither Mike nor Bone left the Cave enlightened, just stooped!

Jizo's Statues of Hase-dera!

The Boys noticed that the grounds of the temple are home to hundreds of small Jizō statues, placed by parents mourning offspring lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion. These statues remain in place for about a year, before being removed to make way for more statues; it is estimated that some 50,000 Jizō statues have been placed at Hase-dera since WWII. 

Kamakura Bay from Hase-dera

The temple also commands an impressive view over Kamakura’s bay and is famous for its hydrangeas, which bloom along the Hydrangea Path in June and July. While the view is amazing. It is also amazing to realize that the Temple had been hit TWICE 1200 feet up, a quarter of a mile from the water with Tsunami over the past thousand years!  In fact both Tsunami's went way further uphill and deeper inland, as the next cool site would be shown to Mike and Bone! 

The Kōtoku-in Temple, Home of the Daibutsu!

Another 1/8 of a mile and further up the hill is one of the most amazing attractions in all of Japan; the Daibutsu (Japanese for "Da Buddha"[Bone Hip Hop!] ) !!!

Doing the Daibutsu!

The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amitābha Buddha located at the Kōtoku-in Temple.

The bronze statue probably dates from 1252, in the Kamakura period, according to temple records. It was preceded by a giant wooden Buddha, which was completed in 1243 after ten years of continuous labor, the funds having been raised by Lady Inada (Inada-no-Tsubone) and the Buddhist priest Jōkō of Tōtōmi. That wooden statue was damaged by a storm in 1248, and the hall containing it was destroyed, so Jōkō suggested making another statue of bronze, and the huge amount of money necessary for this and for a new hall was raised for the project.

The bronze image was probably cast by Ōno Gorōemon or Tanji Hisatomo, both leading casters of the time. At one time, the statue was gilded. There are still traces of gold leaf near the statue's ears. The building housing the statue was washed away in the tsunami of September 20, 1498, during the Muromachi period. Since then, the Great Buddha has stood in the open air. The statue is approximately over 43 feet tall including the base and weighs approximately 93 tons.

Walking into the open air temple and seeing this enormous green statue is an amazing site! As you walk closer and around it, it's enormity just seem to grow.  

Dai"MikeandBone"butsu!

Amazing detail on a 900 year old statue!

Getting into the Daibutsu's Head, Literally!!!

One of the very cool things you are able to do is climb into and walk around the Daibutsu. The picture above shows the head and the seams in the bronze plates that make up the statue. 

After hanging around for about thirty minutes, the Boys noticed it was close to 2:00 and Mike had a 10 PM Flight, so if they want to see Kamakura proper, they better boogie inta town now!

Heading towards the old Kamakura Imperial Gate

Mike and Bone caught a cab from the Daibutsu to the main shrine that the entire city of Kamakura is designed around, the Tsurugaoka Hachimangū, which is the most important Shinto shrine in Kamakura. As mentioned it is the geographical and cultural center of the city of Kamakura, which has largely grown around it and its 1.5 mile approach, starting from the sea by a long boulevard. It is the venue of many of its most important festivals, and hosts two museums.

The Torii (Shinto) Main Gate

New Years Decorations !

Tsurugaoka Hachimangū was for most of its history not only a Hachiman shrine, but also a Tendai Buddhist temple, a fact which explains its general layout, typical of Japanese Buddhist architecture.

At the left of its great stone stairway stood a 1000-year old ginkgo tree, which was uprooted by a storm in the early hours of March 10, 2010.

Both the shrine and the city were built with Feng Shui in mind. The present location was carefully chosen as the most propitious after consulting a diviner because it had a mountain to the north (the Hokuzan), a river to the east (the Namerikawa), a great road to the west (the Kotō Kaidō) and was open to the south (on Sagami Bay). Each direction was protected by a god: Genbu guarded the north, Seiryū the east, Byakko the west and Suzaku the south. In spite of all the changes the shrine has gone through over the years, in this respect Yoritomo's design is still basically intact. While the Shrine was quite awesome, it was PACKED, as was the City, so Mike and Bone could not get any closer to the Shrine than the picture below so they walked the perimeter checking out the grounds.

Shinto Celebrants for the New Years Holiday

 As one enters, after the first torii (Shinto gate) there are three small bridges, two flat ones on the sides and an arched one at the center. In the days of the shogunate there used to be only two, a normal one and another arched, made in wood and painted red. The shogun would leave his retinue there and proceed alone on foot to the shrine. The arched bridge was called Akabashi (Red Bridge), and was reserved to him: common people had to use the flat one. The bridges span over a canal that joins together two ponds popularly called Genpei-ike, or "Genpei ponds". The term comes from the names of the two families, the Minamoto ("Gen") and the Taira ("Pei"), that fought each other in Yoritomo's day. Mike and Bone could see how all these gardens and ponds "flowed" together in an overall pattern.

All of which made Kamakura such a neat place. Unfortunately by now it was 4:30 and Mike's 10:00 PM flight back to the states was starting to weigh on the Boys, so it was time to head to the Kamakura Train Station to and buy their tickets to Tokyo.

Trying to get back to the Train Station

Mike and Bone fought their way through the crowded streets back the 6 blocks to the Train Station only to learn they did not have enough cash for the tickets back!!!!

"Holy Crap, are we stuck here!?!"

Unfortunately the ATM's in Kamakura weren't as Western-ized or friendly as those in Tokyo!!! Sometimes won forgets that they are in a foreign land when you can use your credit cards and ATM for cash in most places. Now in a near panic Mike and Bone were running in an ever broadening circle around the Train Station looking for someplace to get cash. What also was working against them it was now after 5:00 PM on a Holiday, there were no banks open!

Finally after 20 more minutes, They discovered that you can charge for your tickets, bought two and were on the 5:15 back to Tokyo Station !!!!

Trip, Postscript

The Boys got back to Tokyo by 7:00 and reven had time for a couple of burgers at Bubby's. They got Mike all packed and Bone went with Mike to Haneda Airport via Train with no further drama.

While Mike had a torturous 18 hour flight through Seattle to Detroit, to Grand Rapids, as he headed down into Customs, Mike looked at Bone, Bone looked at Mike, they both bowed deeply to each other and said in their now best Japanese "Arrigato Dumbass! 

Meanwhile, the next day, while Mike was in the air, the Emperor held a press conference with the American Embassy and said " Your citizens are getting bombed in Hiroshima, and drinking kamikaze's in Tokyo, if Hiroshima, Fukashima, and Godzilla weren't enough, now you gave us Mike and Bone!!!"