16 11 2009

We woke up to a 22 degree sunny day for Kamakura, although no doubt up in the mountainous Hakone it was still foggy and raining.

We caught the train south to Kamakura (along with the Sunday crowds) and then a local bus to the Daibutsu. We wandered around and inside the Daibutsu, marvelling at it’s (hollow) construction. The seated Buddha is about 11 m tall and was built almost 800 years ago. The buildings that housed the Daibutsu were destroyed multiple times by tsunami and today it sits uncovered.

We walked down the hill to Hase Dera and ambled through the gardens, looking at the Kannon statues and buildings. The main Kannon statue was carved from a single piece of camphor wood and was covered in gold leaf. There was a nice view of the beach, and several hawks circling the skies about the temple. We walked through a dark cave with a low ceiling , the Benten-kutsu cave, that contained statues of mostly female gods.

We walked back in the direction of the station, having lunch at Cafe Life Force on the way. We had the soup set and the ume pilaf followed by a rhubarb cheesecake, brown rice waffle with maple syrup and rum and rasin icecream.

We caught the train back to Yokohama where mum and dad wandered around China town. Then we had curry-rice for dinner.

Nara- home of the daibutsu and deer

9 08 2009

We took the train to Nara from Kyoto, checked into the Nara-Tree Guesthouse in Naramichi historical district then had lunch at Ashura, an organic vegan-friendly place that served curry, samosas and fried croquettes with carrot juice.
Filled with fuel, we set off on a walking tour of Nara. We walked through a crafty shopping district, past the Sarusawa-like pond with turtles and koi to Kofukuji Temple and the 5 story pagoda. Then we continued past the cracker-eating deer to Todaiji Temple with the Daibutsu. It’s quite dark inside the wooden building so it’s actually almost impossible to get a photo of the giant Buddha. Benno managed to squeeze through the hole the size of the Buddha’s Nostril, again (he did it 14 years ago and is the same size now!). Then we headed up the hill to a giant bell, the Nigatsu Hall with lovely views of Nara, past Hokke-do down through the Kasugayama Primeval Forest to Kasuga Taisha Shrine which is another UNESCO site. Kasuga Taisha Shrine had moss covered stone lanterns lining the path and two men were practicing playing taiko drums while we wandered along the paths.

We ate peach flavoured shaved ice (kaki kori) and mogwort toasted mochi on the way then had sweet potato fries from a stand on the way home. We ate dinner and watched “Tokyo Godfathers”, a Japanese anime movie at the guesthouse. We would not recommend Nara-Tree guesthouse to anyone as it was really poorly run and not kept very clean. But there was air-conditioning in our bedroom at least.

Nokogiri-yama (Saw Mountain)

20 07 2009

Today, being a Sunday and the first day of my school summer holidays, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of pancakes. After that we went to K’s (electrical store) to spend a 10000 yen gift voucher we got for signing up for our internet during a campaign. We bought a printer for Benno’s work and while we were there we met this water droplet mascot for an airconditioner company that were handing out free stuff like notepads and hats. Bonus!

We heading off to the Kisarazu train station late morning. We caught the Uchibo line south to Hama-kanaya station. It took over an hour because of the strong winds were slowing the train down but finally we made it to the station. We followed the road to the ropeway that goes up to the top of the mountain but ‘zan nen desu ne’ the ropeway was closed due to the strong winds. So we saved our 900 yen each and we walked up. It took about 40 minutes to hike up the hill, through an animal-path (narrow hiking trail) that was slippery underfoot. The stairs were covered in moist moss and mud and it was tough going. We soon were drenched in sweat due the humidity and our exertions climbing all the steps. When we arrived at the top we sat down and ate our bento lunch in the fog.

Continuing on a little way we came to the entrance gate to the sacred Daibutsu grounds. 600 yen entry gave us access to more fog and mist. It was very misty so we could see nothing from the lookout “Ruriko Observatory”. Ruriko is on the edge of the cliff with a steep drop 400m down (a ‘saw edge’ but with all the white fog we couldn’t see the drop.)

We trekked to the hundred-shaku Kannon but it was very hard to see with a thick layer of fog covering most of it. So we moved on, past some statues to the Daibutsu of Nihon-ji (the Giant Buddha of the Temple of Japan). It was impressive- 31.05m tall carved into the rock (twice as tall as the Todaiji buddha in Nara and three times as tall as the Kamakura daibutsu). It took 28 men 3 years of work back in 1783 to complete it. Benno saw frogs and tadpoles in the little moat around the base of the Daibutsu. We couldn’t stand still for too long or our leg muscles started shaking from climbing all the stairs. That’s why a lot of our photos turned out blurry.

Before the Daibutsu was carved the appretice artisans first created 1500 stone images of Arhats. Unfortunately many of the statues were eroded or deliberated destroyed by an anti-Buddhist movement from the Meiji era. Lots were missing their heads. By this time we had been walking for over 2 hours (40 minutes hike to the lookout and then 90 minutes around the mountain) so it was time to return home. Unwilling to go back down the slippery, dark and foggy animal path, we came down the other side of the mountain.

Heading down the southern side of the mountain we passed the Nihon-ji temple and grounds with lovely gardens and lots more stairs. We exited the sacred mountain and walked about 5 km to the Hota train station. It was quite a small station and walking there we felt like the only people around for miles (as it was just sparse farmland). The station had no gates, only a small building and a couple of benches to sit on while waiting for the train. This was another side to Japan – the countryside is a completely different world to the Tokyo-Japan.

It took less time to travel back to Kisarazu so the winds must have died down. We caught the 6.45 local bus back to Apita and then home to rest our poor feet and legs.

We watched the least strange movie that we have seen so far tonight, simply called “Always”.