shrines


Ōyama is an accessible day trip from Yokohama or Toyko

Entrance to Tanzawa Park.

Entrance to Tanzawa Park.

 

 

On the commuter train through Kanagawa’s expansive suburbs I wondered if there was indeed an end to the sea of houses and industry. That’s when the fellow next to me tapped my shoulder. I had asked him about directions earlier. Now he pointed out the window behind our seats, where mountains loomed up through the haze. Ōyama (which simply means “big mountain” in Japanese) is part of the Tanzawa-Ōyama Park in the Kanagawa Prefecture. It’s an accessible day trip from Tokyo or Yokohama, and definitely a good destination when the mercury gets up over 30.

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the great buddha, or daibutsu as hes called peacefully ignores the crowds of admirers.

the great buddha, or daibutsu as he's called peacefully ignores the crowds of admirers.

Kamakura is about a 30 minute bike ride from my house. It’s one of the most beautiful and interesting places I’ve seen in a while. Not only is it a former capital of Japan and oozing with culture and history, it remains a young and vibrant city. There are hippie health food restaurants, a farmer’s market, and on sunny days the beach is packed with young families, high school kids with hiked up skirts and loosened ties and surf bums. The wave’s may not rival Hawaii, but they’re big enough to have some fun.

Every trip to Kamakura uncovers something new. I finally made it to Kamakura’s Giant Buddha, the Daibutsu. He’s pretty amazing and has survived many natural disasters.

Daibutsus giant slippers

Daibutsu's giant slippers

the daibutsus face in udon. you might find this tacky, but the noodles were homemade and probabl the best Ive ever eaten.

the Daibutsu's face in udon. You might find this tacky, but the noodles were homemade and probably the best I've ever eaten.

Kannon, a multi-tasking goddess, hears prayers for world peace, atomic bomb victims and homesickness

Kannon, a multi-tasking goddess, hears prayers for world peace, atomic bomb victims and homesickness

Even from a speeding train, the Buddha at Ofuna is impossible to miss. Glowing white she peeks out over the top of a bamboo forest, peaceful and smiling, even on the rainiest of days.

Well, I finally paid her a visit with some friends, following the stream of visitors up the hill past some of the biggest bamboo I’ve ever seen. Paid my 300 yen entrance fee and was surprised to get an English print out.

Kannon, or the Goddess of Mercy of the White Robe, as she is known, stands 25 metres tall. Construction started in 1929, the statue representing wishes for “permanent world peace.” After World War II and the atomic bombing of

A smaller statue of the goddess

A smaller statue of the goddess

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the statue became a place to commemorate the victims. Construction was finally competed in 1960 and contains stones from the ground zero. People now bring strings of paper cranes to adorn the shrine. Though I didn’t see it, Wikipedia now tells me a fire somehow carried from one of the bombed cities still burns in a mushroom-shaped statue.

By extension of the world peace mandate of Kannon, she’s supposed to instill foreigners to Japan with a sense of comfort. This makes here, unofficially, the goddess of homesickness.

The grounds are beautiful, though the view of Ofuna is mediocre. Looking out through the main gates of the shrine you see a massive department store-sized pachinko parlour. It’s no wonder the the Goddess of the White Robe has her eyes closed. Somehow world peace and salary men gambling away their pay just don’t quite mix.

Kannon overlooks Ofuna

Kannon overlooks Ofuna