A big reason (literally and figuratively) for going to Kamakura was to see the Buddha statue that is there. It dates back to the 13th Century but has undergone some work since then. It is a pretty bloody large statue. It is also a popular tourist attraction so we were not alone on this day, even though it wasn’t a weekend.
Wandering around the Buddha and seeing it from all angles gives a good impression of its scale and also how it was made of many segments. There are vents on the back to cool the interior (a little) which is good because you can go inside it. It is very dark in there but you see the shape clearly. The coloration also makes it clear which bits have been repaired over the years. The temperature on a warm day will quickly encourage you to head back outside, though.
It is easy to get fixated on the Buddha itself but the environment in which it is displayed is really nice too. The surrounding sculptures are interesting and there are some leaves on the ground with engravings. Apparently there were many more at one point but only four of them remain now. I hope nothing bad befell those who pinched the others!
Walking back through Kamakura, we ducked down a back street to see what was on the parallel roads. We came to a street that had a really attractive tree lined boulevard feel to it. At the end of the boulevard, there appeared to be a big arch so we headed up to take a look. It turned out to be the entrance to a quite large temple. This wasn’t something we had planned on so we weren’t going to spend a lot of time there but it would have been churlish to ignore it!
There were lots of visitors to the temple so it seemed a bit odd to have just stumbled across the place. There were ponds to one side with large numbers of lily pads, the leaves of which people seemed to have taken to throwing coins on to. The main temple was up a large flight of stairs. We had other things to do so skipped the trip up there and in no way was this as a result of the excessive heat of the day and the way it looked like it would make us even hotter!
The hotel I have used on my recent visits to Tokyo is one of a group of hotels in one location. Between each of the buildings is a garden. It is a peaceful place to hang out (even when it was as hot and humid as it was when I was first there) and it has temples, bells, a lake and lots of places to rest and contemplate. In the evening, it is subtly illuminated providing a very different feel compared to how it is during the day.
On some occasions, music was piped in. One evening there was a guy playing some sort of flute as he wandered around the garden. I assume he was hired to do so rather than just showing up and playing but you never know. He was fighting the noise of the cicadas when it was hot!
The reason for being in Asakusa is that there are some famous shrines there. This is a very popular tourist area and there is a market on the grounds of the shrine which is designed to suck up the cash of the passing tourists. While there are some awfully tacky things for sale, there are also some very classy artisans at work too. Quite a contrast. I am not a souvenir person so, while I paid some attention to these stalls, I was more interested in the shrines themselves.
They are impressive structures and hugely popular. There are some massive paper lanterns at the entrance which apparently are very famous (shows what I know). They do look great. What was strange to me was that, while the main shrine was very impressive and very busy, there were a number of other buildings, sculptures and gardens in the area that were also very cool but far less busy. Everyone appears to go to the main shrine and then leave. They certainly missed out in my opinion.