So I went to Kamakura yesterday. It’s about an hour south by train. And a totally different world. Tokyo is overwhelming, bright, frantic, glittery, insane. The train station in Kamakura is a tiny little outpost in a tiny little town filled with temples and shrines dating back seven or eight hundred years to when this little corner of Japan was trying very hard to be the country’s capital.
I hit a couple of temples (pictures of which I’ll post tomorrow or the next day) and a Shinto shrine where, legend has it, if you wash your money in the spring, it’ll double. But the big attraction here is, of course, the Really Big Buddha. The Daibutsu. It really is big. And down the road is another temple that has a really big Kannon (Kuan Yin Bodhisattva) though for some reason s/he isn’t advertised as such.
Temples here are such a wonderful mix of traditional pilgrimage and contemporary tourism. It cost a couple hundred yen to get into them (maybe two bucks) and once inside there’s inevitably a tourist shack set up with all sorts of Japanese kitch as well as actual religious objects (statues, nenjubeads, books, etc.). And for every tourist who’s just come to gawk at the Big Buddha, there’s actual pilgrims offering incense and bowing and praying to the Buddhas, bodhisattvas and kami.
As for me, I can’t say I had any great religious experience. After all, these temples aren’t even of the same kind of Buddhism as I practice. And I’ve had my fair share of conversion experiences so much so that at this point I have them all the time, in sacred space or otherwise. But, on the other hand, standing in front of that huge eleven-headed Kannon and reflecting on my first Buddhist conversion experience â€” well, it was a calming and settling sort of moment that I’d like to keep with me for a while.
It’s about eight in the morning here and it’s my last full day of Tokyo. I’ve got a lot on the agenda, most of which falls into the category of “crazy Tokyo experience” with ultra-modern hip and cool sights on my list. More, later.