Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day - Japan Style

This mother's day Jeff asked - would you like to go to brunch somewhere? Well, actually I had in mind a little something different ...

Kamakura has fast become one of my favorite spots here in Japan. I love the temples and shrines, and the peacefulness that surrounds them. I have enjoyed all my outings in Kamakura and know that our good weather days are coming to a close. Rainy season is days away, followed by the three dreaded HHH's ... if you're from the south you know what's coming - hazy, hot and humid. Whenever we move, it has been in the summer - I politely meet our new neighbors and then say "I'll see you in the Fall, when the weather breaks, when the three HHH's go away." Most people are amused, particularly when they find out I grew up in Atlanta - but I've done my time, thank God for ac.

So with a beautiful forecast, I convinced my family that a hike from KitaKamakua station to Kamakura would be fun! Temples to see, shrine's to visit, fresh air and sunshine followed by the promise of soba noodles at one of the best noodle restaurants in Kamakura. What more could a mom want?

We started our day by taking in the Jochiji temple - 4th ranked of the 5 Great Temples of Kamakura. The 1923 Kanto earthquake destroyed much of the temple and there has been a steady reconstruction of the temple and the grounds since that time. We saw the main icon, Sanzebutsu Nyorai - which is actually three statues of the Gods Amida, Shaka and Miroku - symbols of the past, present and future. We sought out Hotei, located behind the cemetery, who is one of the Seven Lucky Gods - if you pat his belly you will receive much luck.

From there we headed to Kencho-ji - the head temple and first ranked of the Five Great Temples in Kamakura. I was fortunate to come here in the Fall for an Ikebana International program and it was nice to have the opportunity to wander around a bit more, this time with my guidebook in hand. We saw the Jizo Bosatsu located in the Butsuden (Buddha Hall). The Jizo Bosatsu holds a cane in his right hand and a treasure ball called a Hoju in his left. I'll have to come back here sans family ... the natives were getting restless and I missed my opportunity to enjoy the garden located behind the Hojo.

Off we headed to the trail that would take us over to Kamakura-gu (where I had been on May 5th for the archery demonstration). Thank goodness it was a moderate day - because I was certainly getting my workout with the stairs! There was a set of very steep stairs leading up to the Hanzobo Shrine and from there we picked up the trail, over the mountain and down into Kamakura. We were able to enjoy a fabulous view of Kamakura, with Sagami Bay off in the distance. Mitchell picked out Kamakura Station - our final destination point - and we could see the grounds of the Hachimangu Shrine. It was quiet, the birds were chirpping, the kids saw many caves they could peek into, we passed by bamboo groves ... it was perfect.

Once off the trail we tried to go to Kakunoji - but this is a closed temple with guided tours (in Japanese) once an hour. We had just missed the tour (lucky kids) but I'm glad we took the detour, because we saw one of the most beautiful houses that I've seen since arriving in Japan. What then ensued was a lot of discussion about architecture - schools that are known for it (go RISD!!), balance and understanding between right and left brain ... appreciation of form and function. If we'd just hopped on the bus (that we just missed because of the detour) we would have missed out.

The outing ended with a fabulous lunch at a soba noodle restaurant in Kamakura - lucky for us the Western seating was full - we got to sit on Tatami mats at the low tables overlooking a lovely garden eating our noodles, and yes, I even let the slurping go ... only while we're in Japan!

This was probably one of my best mother's days ever - the gift of time spent with my family, experiencing our host country and enjoying a glass of sake over lunch. I couldn't have asked for more. Till next time, sayonara.


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  2. Kamakura is such a cool place. Walking along the beach there I always wondered about the plaques that read "When you feel earthquake, look for tsunami" with a little concern.


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