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Kamakura - Great Buddha and Hachiman Shinto Shrine


Off to Kamakura

Kamakura beach We were getting ready to head to Kamakura and I didn’t really know what I had signed up for but everyone seemed excited. We were put into groups by, we concluded, the area we were going to be living. Once the busses were rolling it wasn’t too long before we were next to some nice beaches and then traffic started to slow down. We would find out later this small town gets of around 100,00 gets over 20 million visitors a year and during the new year celebration alone gets over 2 million visitors.

Kamakura Daibutsu(鎌倉大仏) (The Great Buddha of Kamakura)

Shioko-san Getting off the bus we met our tour guide Shioko-san and she started with a joke. ‘Shio means salt and ko means child but she is actually really sweet.’ And that was completely true, she was really sweet and an amazing tour guide. Before entering the temple she told us a lot of history way to much to reiterate here but maybe you can zoom it on the pic and get and idea of the time frame….

Entering the temple there were 2 guardians. The one on the right has it’s mouth open (symbolizing the beginning or あ, ah) the one on the left has it’s mouth closed (symbolizing the end or ん, un). Traditionally Japanese write right to left hence the sides. guardian left gaurdian right

This symbolism is very common in Japan at both Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.

Great Buddha approach The approach to the Great Buddha was fairly crowded even though it was the middle of the week. I guess it’s probably always crowded if 20 million visit a year….

Ok so it’s been almost 2 weeks so I forget a lot of the history but I do remember some about it’s construction. Japan did not have a good source of copper so the bronze was made with melted down Chinese coins. It was made in sections and joined together with 3 different types of joints. We were able to go inside and I took a 3d sphere image(not sure how this looks online, good luck), and if you look closely you can maybe figure out the joints. It also used to be covered in gold and inside a building but there was a fire or something that took the building away and then the gold came off over time and the bronze oxidized.

Great Buddha and jsps group Great Buddha Great Buddha inside sphere

Tsurugaoka Hachimangū (鶴岡八幡宮) (The Hachiman Shinto Shrine of Kamakura)

Back on the bus for a short ride and we were at our next stop. the first thing that was pointed out was this road leading up to the gate. notice anything strange? Tsurugaoka road

No it’s not your eyes there is no perspective. It not some weird natural phenomenon but rather the road gets wider as it goes to creat the illusion.

Next we went through the first gate it is customary to bow as you pass through. Our sweet tour guide then told us a ton of amazing things that I have been so kind to forget (sorry I am now in research mode and almost everything has gone away). We were also told not to walk up the center of the path leading up to the shrine as it is reserved for important folks like the Shogun and monks but apparently most Japanese don’t know this so it’s not a big deal. At some point just before the shrine there was a purification font. Grab a ladle with your right hand scoop it full, wash your left hand over the outside, then your right, then pour some in your left hand and rinse your mouth, then raise the ladle so water pours over​ it and your hand purifying the ladle before you put it back.

Tsurugaoka gate Purification font

Now that we are pure let’s get to the shrine but first check out all this Sake. Actually they are empty but Sake makes you more god like so drink up!!! Sake

So apparently I didn’t take any pics in the shrine and I think that’s because we were told not to but I do have some of the building around it and of the wish/prayer cards (Ema). On the end of building roofs you will notice a swirly symbol, this is to protect from fire (no blind study has been completed to my knowledge but I guess it works, it looks cool anyway). Ema Shino Roof Shino shrine outside

If you’re good you notice the same open closed mouth gaurdian thing going on with at least two different creatures in the above image.

The main thing to do at the shrine is pray. Luckily it only cost 5 yen (5¢) but for the big money you can get into the inner shrine (I don’t know how much, I didn’t ask). As with all traditions there is a proper method: throw in your coin, bow twice, clap twice (to wake up the gods), say your prayer (make your wish), bow again, and off you go. Honestly I like it. Just outside the main shrine you can purchase Ema or hang up the one you brought and buy おみくじ (o-mikuji) a fortune/blessing for 100 yen. I didn’t have a buck so I was out of luck….

Well that all I remember hope it was fun to read. :p

Oh one more thing. At this Shinto Shrine there is also a Buddhist temple and a Catholic preschool. Apparently it is common in Japan to be baptized Shinto, married Catholic, and be buried Buddhist. I think as a whole they pick the nicest​/coolest traditions and do them. Not a bad method if you ask me…

And because She was great, a final pic with Shioko-san our amazingly sweet tour guide: Shioko and jsps group