Wandering around temples gives you such a sense of awe. A friend invited me on a trip outside of Tokyo to KAMAKURA where there are approx 70 temples in the immediate area, dating back to the early 1200’s. And whilst you could not possibly imagine visiting all 70, there is a distinct difference in construction and atmosphere to each temple that we visited. Our first temple was ENGAKU - JI was sparse and expansive, with many different houses and small temples strewn out along a hillside. The nicest aspect of this temple was the quiet nature of the buildings and the casual discovery of monuments around corners or walkways. Perhaps the best memory will be sitting on the edge of the cliff face, overlooking the valley with Japanese tea and looking beyond trees and bamboo forests.
The next temple was KENCHO - JI. This was much grander,broader and impressive in it’s physical appearance. The most notable difference of this temple was that it is still being used today as a training centre for Zen monks. There is a very real and lived in feel to this temple and with the exeption of one or two ancient buildings, a much more modern and currnet atmosphere. However, tucked up beyond the training centre in the bowels of the cliffside is a bamboo forest that leads to a VAST staircase (ie not for the faint hearted stairmaster) that leads you to the HANSOBO temple where an ancitent burial ground complete with monkey warriors confronts you before leading you up to the temple. It is a mighty climb but then once again you are rewarded with a view over Kamakura itself as well as the distances of Tokyo.
The great DAIBUTSU was next, not before a quick walk through the resplendent TSURUGAOKA HACHIMAN - GU temple.This main Shinto (indigenous religion of Japan) temple of Kamakura was built by a Minimato Emporor to honour the god of war. It’s first difference is the blasting red colour that strikes you as soon as you enter. The dramatic colours gives you an impression of the glory of a Japanese lord leading his clan into battle. This is a shrine of decadence, meant to impress unlike the quiet reflective nature of hte Zen temples we visited earlier.
The Great DAIBUTSU is a beautiful bronze statue sitting in an open square that used to be a temple but was destroyed a 1498 tidal wave. Thus this 2nd largest buddha sits impressively in the open in a quiet meditation beneath the elements. As akin to the Big Banana or Big Pineapple on the Qld highways, it is a tourist mecca so the reverence is perhaps a little lost... but nonethelessl a sight to behold!!!!
Our last visit was a rushed walk around the HASADERA temple which was built to honour the KANNON GODDESS, protector of children. The stunning gardens are ablaze with colour even in the winter and one could only marvel at what the place must look like in Spring. The 11 faced Kannon deity is beautiful but it is the garden of 1000 child statues that is the most impressive aspect. Devotees used to come here to make offerings to protect their children and give them good fortune. Now however the purpose has shifted somewhat, with the statues now representing the lost children of miscarriage and abortions. When you see the individual statues with knitted beanies on them and neck ties it makes you realise the personal reflection that the temple imbibes.