Friday, December 5, 2008

Kamakura Orientation Field Trip Part TWO

After we left the Italian Restaurant in Kamakura, we hopped back on the train. We went to the Hase stop. The first thing we did was to get off the train walking in the wrong direction!! A very nice Japanese woman helped us to get going in the correct direction. She walked with us for about 10 minutes to show us the right way. She was extremely kind! Once we were walking in the correct direction, it didn't take us long to arrive at The Great Buddha. The following excerpt is taken straight from our entrance ticket. "The seated Buddha, Amida Nyorai known by the familiar name of the Kamakura Daibutsu is the principle deity of Kotoku-in temple. It is a national treasure. Construction of the Daibutsu began in 1252 and continued for approximately 10 years. The costs of construction of the Daibutsu were met by the priest Joko, who successfully persuaded members of the community to make the necessary donations. Among the records of the temple, the name of Hisatomo Tanji appears as a craftsman responsible for the casting of the Daibutsu, and a man known as Gorouemon Ohno appears in the temple lore, but the designer of the original model and many other details surrounding the construction remain unknown to this day. It is thought that the hall which housed the Daibutsu was destroyed twice by strong winds in 1334 and in 1369. Records are not clear for the intervening period, but it was not re-built again after the fifteenth century." The statue weighs 93 tons, is 13.55m high. It is massive and impressive and when standing in front of the Buddha, we had a feeling of awe. Mostly because of how old the statue is, but partly because of the reverence in the people around us. It is Old and beautiful and peaceful. The sky was so blue that day. We did enjoy it and I had a moment of amazement that no one else in our families will probably ever see this Great Buddha.
We left the Great Buddha and walked down the street a little ways to Hase-Dera Temple. This is one of the most attractive Temple's in Japan. It was beautiful to see and I can only imagine how much more beautiful it will be in the spring cherry-blossom flowering season. Information from our pamphlet follows. "According to legend, in 721 AD the pious monk Tokudo Shonin discovered a large camphor tree in the mountain forests near the village of Hase in the Nara region. He realized the trunk of the tree was so large that it provided enough material for carving two statues of the eleven-headed Kannon. The statue he commissioned to be carved from the lower part of the trunk was enshrined in Hasedera Temple near Nara; the statue from the upper half was thrown into the sea near present day Osaka with a prayer that it would reappear to save the people. Fifteen years later in 736 on the night of June 18th it washed ashore at Nagai Beach, not far from Kamakura, sending out rays of light as it did. The statue was then brought to Kamakura and a temple was constructed to honor it. Since time immemorial, hasedera temple has been known as the 4th station among the 33 holy places in the Kanto area." The first area you come to is a peaceful garden with water features. It has 3 different areas and is very calming. Then you climb some stone stairs and come to an area with thousands of little "Jizo" stone statues standing in long rows, some wearing bibs or caps and festooned with charms. They are there to comfort the souls of unborn children. I was told by a Japanese person that the flowers left there now are more to bless the miscarried or aborted babies. It is a quiet and somber place. You can purchase the flowers and favors there at the shrine. When you walk up the stone stairs again, you come to the level that the Temple is located. "Inside of the main hall, called "Kannon-do Hall" is housed the magnificent statue of Hase Kannon. It is 30.1 ft. tall and has 11 heads in addition to it's main one. Each face has a different expression, signifying that the deity listens to the wishes of all types of people. Gold leaf was applied to the statue in 1342. Kannon is a future Buddha, destined for enlightenment, who has vowed to save all sentient beings--and represents compassion, mercy, and love."--From the pamphlet. The temple is beautiful. When you go inside, it is very calm and quiet. There are people that arrive every day to pray there. For a Christian walking into the temple, I respect the reverence, and my eyes are those of seeing a piece of history, and a part of Japan. The statue is amazing. We were not allowed to bring in a camera. It is something that I will always remember, seeing the golden statue. It was beautiful and glowing. I did snap a picture with my zoom all the way out from the outside. You can see the orange glow. The Japanese are very much into nature being apart of their lives. They always incorporate gardens and greenery with there shrines and temples. This temple was no different. However, it had a little more than usual. There was a platform or deck that you could walk over to from the temple. Remember that we had walked up stone steps twice. The platform overlooked the town below and out over the ocean. It was beautiful and quaint. Our short visit to Kamakura has been my favorite place of all so far and I look forward to returning at least once more.

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