Thursday, April 2, 2009

Trip to Kamakura

Add ImageI am sure many of you have read the children's book Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus!. I would like to submit a new entry in this genre, entitled Don't Let The 8 Year Old Run The Tour!.

Last month, we took a day trip with our new neighbors and friends, the Herseys. Kamakura was our destination, about an hour away by the train and an easy, very well known day trip from Tokyo. In Kamakura there are many shrines and temples, with the highlight being the Daibutsu. Translated by Nick - the Big Buddha. Most guide books call it, in a more dignified fashion, the Great Buddha of Kamakura.
We left for Kamakura from Shinjuku station, headed for the stop just before the town of Kamakura. The book that both Denise Hersey and I had read suggested getting off at this station, and walking to the Daibutsu, enjoying the countryside and the shrines and temples along the way. This sounded like a good idea, as there are a few interesting shrines with quirky customs. One is the money washing shrine. Another is a shrine where you buy a small pottery plate and smash it on a rock, I think banishing evil or negative influences.

Please forgive me if I am not sure what these shrines are to commemorate, or the reason for the temple. I can't even tell you the names of anything save the Daibutsu. 

When we left the train station, we picked up a guide map that showed the walkway to the Daibutsu. We followed the map, and obediently stopped at the first temple. The temple had been in that location for hundreds of years, rebuilt only when an earthquake made the rebuild necessary. We had brought a picnic, and ate our lunch there. It was a beautiful, sunny day. There was a flowering tree that had just started to bloom - maybe peach or pear? After lunch, we finished exploring the temple grounds and the connected cemetery, which was fascinating to all the boys because of the caves and springs.

We decided to make our way to the next stop, when we all suddenly realized - the grownups enjoying the weather and conversation - that Michael (the 8 year old in question) and Daniel Hersey (9) were very far ahead indeed. Deciding whether or not to take the hill path was a moot point. If we wanted to take our sons home with us, we were going to have to catch up with them on the hill path.So Michael and Daniel, raced ahead of us, Sam and I dragged along at the rear. It was a good thing that it was a gorgeous day, and it was the first time we had been out of an urban environment since we had arrived in Tokyo. 
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I don't like to be a complainer, but I have to take issue with the book that I have been using to navigate Tokyo as far as the section on Kamakura goes. The book mentions the hill path, and suggests comfortable walking shoes. I would suggest hiking boo
ts, bringing water, and a walking
staff, and suggest that you leave smaller children at home. This hill path was STEEP, was quite treacherous in spots where the path had eroded around the roots of the trees. If it had been a hot summer day, we would have really wanted some water, especially with the fast pace that Michael and Daniel set. So we walked as quickly as we could to catch up with the boys, and as carefully as we could. Sam started to complain about the walk, and Nick carried him on his shoulders. 

Add ImageWe finally made it to the Daibutsu, which was really specta
cular. You can even go inside for the very small fee of 10¥. The buddha's sandals are on the wall for you to see - they are replaced on a regular basis.

Visiting the temples and shrines along the Kamakura path will have to wait for an adult excursion, when we are not racing to keep up with the 8 year old tour guide!

One of my favorite photos from our trip is a sign I saw on the way. So many Japanese people speak and write English, it is amazing, humbling, and shaming that those of us who speak English do not make this effort. At the same time, there are some very funny English signs posted around Tokyo that make me giggle. Here's one:

Oh, to be troubled by garbage!


  1. Eric and I are also troubled by the garbage!!! too funny.....How was the big Buddha? Looks like a beautiful spot!

  2. It was beautiful. I want to go back, now that I know a bit more about the town and the area. Maybe with you next year?