Friday, April 25, 2008

The Great Buddha Of Kamakura And Enoshima's Kabukicho

~ a continuation from the first and second part ~
Visiting numerous shrines and temples in Japan is undoubtedly will make you feel like you have had too much of them, and just turn you holiday to become a tedious one at times. In spite of that, I continue my visit to Kamakura to Kotokuin, a Buddhist temple of the Pure Land sect of Kamakura.
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This temple is renowned for the Great Buddha or daibutsu, a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha which is one of the most famous icons of Japan. The statue stands at 13.35 meters high and weighs approximately 93 tons making it the second largest Buddha statue in Japan after the one in the Todaiji Temple in Nara. Here is a scale of comparison of the size of this statue.
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From left: Me, the Great Buddha and the bird (top right).
The statue is believed to be cast in 1252 in the Kamakura period, when temple records report the construction of a bronze statue, following an idea by the priest Joko, who also collected donations to build it. However, it is unclear whether that is the present statue. The statue is originally build and located inside a large temple hall. However, the temple buildings were washed away by a tsunami tidal wave in the end of the 15th century but the statue remains and since then, it stands in the open air.
Repairs were carried out in 1960 to1961, when the neck was strengthened and measures were taken to protect it from earthquakes.
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The statue is referred to as "The Buddha at Kamakura" in several verses that preface the initial chapters of the novel Kim by Rudyard Kipling, 1901. The sculptors were One-Goroemon and Tanji-Hisatomo.
The former sounds more like one Doraemon, isn't it?
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The statue is hollow, and visitors can view the interior for a mere 20yen (60cents) a person. I knew that there would be nothing to see inside the statue, but my curiosity made myself to go ahead to have a look. So we had to take a narrow staircase up one floor before we came to a platform to see something like this.
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That brownish part is the head of the statue.

And a board detailing about the history of this statue, I suppose. As if I was bothered to read those.
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I felt I was damn crap to pay that amount only to be presented with the bronze wall inside a dark interior of the statue. I should have save that and get a packet of nasi lemak, isn't it? Anyway, at the side of the statue, a pair of the Buddha's slippers woven from strips of dried grass is hung on the wall.
The pair of slippers is just gigantic.
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The Buddha's slippers.
Our initial plan was to return to Tokyo after our visit to the Great Buddha, but I got to know that Enoshima, a small seaside town is located just 30-minute train ride to the south from Kamakura. I have always wanted to visit this island, after watching the touching Japanese drama called Taiyou-no Uta which was filmed in this island. When I saw myself at the Enoshima station, I was reminded of the few scenes that took place at the very exact location.
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I took this picture just before I went back.
We went there using a special line, called Enoden and the green train is somehow looked rather unique and interesting with some antique touch on its design when comparing it to the normal trains I usually take.
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Fujisawa is the last stop of this train.
Enoshima is a small island, about 4 km in circumference, at the mouth of the Katase River, which flows into Sagami Bay in Japan. Part of the city of Fujisawa, it is linked to the Katase section of the same city on the mainland by a 600 meter-long bridge, and during low tide you can walk there on exposed sandbars. Adjacent to the closest beach to Tokyo and Yokohama, the island and the nearby coast are the hub of a popular resort area.
Enoshima's many sights are concentrated on the island of Enoshima itself, in front of the beach and the modern town. Enoshima is blessed with the abundant beauty of nature and sea. The classic view of Mount Fuji as depicted in Japenese art can be seen from Enoshima on clear days. Giant hawks called tombe fill the skies, squawking and diving.
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The island is surrounded by high sea cliffs, rocks and tidal pools. The pounding surf and rocks make swimming at the island rather suicidal but many people walk across the exposed rocks, exploring the tidal pools and crab pots. Access is on the cliff side of the seawall behind the marina or by going over the top of the island.
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Both of us explored the island with only the guide map we got from the nearby tourist guide information counter and we started our tour around the island along a street that leads from the Enoden and Monorail Station to the beach, which has souvenir shops and surfer accessories shops.
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That street leads up to the few shrines found on the island.
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Enoshima Shrine is best known for its rather unusual naked statue of Benzaiten (hadaka Benzaiten), the goddess of music and entertainment which is a Shinto deity rarely found in such a state.
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When it comes to shrines in Japan, coming across the sight of people tying the fortune paper called omikuji at the wooden poles placed around the shrine is nothing new. This goes the same with Enoshima Shrine.
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However, I noticed something more than just fortune papers in Enoshima Shrine. There was a section below a tree called the "Tree of Knot" where couples will write their messages on a wooden tablet and hang them under the tree. Just like its main purpose, which mainly focuses for couples, it is quite comprehensible that the wooden tablets are in pink, rather than being conventional wood brown.
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The Tree of Knot.
We continue our climb to the other end of the island to catch the sunset later that evening, but before that we came across the Kabukicho of Enoshima. Perhaps you have no idea what Kabukicho means, but it is one of the biggest red-light-district in the heart of Shinjuku in Tokyo. I paid a visit there in the later part of my trip this time and I shall blog on that some other time. Anyway, this four palms of Enoshima's Kabukicho has nothing to do with eroticism, just in case you think I am trying to do so in this entry.
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We ended our trip to Enoshima by witnessing the sunset at the end of the island, in an area surrounded with high cliffs and rocks. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be the best sunset I have seen because the cloudy sky spoilt the scenic view of dusk that evening. Despite so, the serene and tranquility around this part of the island made it a great spot to spend some quality moments with our loved ones here.
It is peaceful over here.
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I concluded my trip by getting a box of the famous biscuit from Kamakura before I headed to the next destination.
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This biscuit uses plenty of butter as its base in the shape of dove and is called Sabure Dove (Hato Sabure). It was said that during the Meiji era, there was a shopkeeper who made a model of a biscuit and gave it to a French salor to have a try. That Frenchman later revealed that it tasted similar to the Sabure in France and that marked the beginning of the biscuit being known as Sabure. Not long after that, basing on the motif of the dove found in Tsuruoka Hachimongu shrine, the biscuit was created and that was the beginning of the story of Sabure dove.
Apparently, this biscuit is so well-known that it even has a Wikipedia entry in Japanese version.


Anonymous said...

aiya...every place in japan also got some snack to claim that its made locally and very popular....

just to make business

calvin said...

@ kok hong:
if this concept is applied in malaysia, i don't think it will work out very well. the culture difference being one of the reason.

Alan said...

This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.


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