Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Return (Day 15) - Kamakura

We’d planned to visit Nikko for the day but a nice ex-pat Colombian we met on the train suggested this was better! Once the capital of Japan, (1185 to 1333) Kamikura is still a pleasant little train trip to the country just outside of Tokyo with beautiful temples and the amazing Daibutsu.

The Daibutsu (Great Buddha), second in size only to Todai-ji’s we saw earlier in Nara. Incredible that something 13m tall and weighing 850 tonnes could have been cast from bronze in 1252 - 857 years ago! Like the ancient Greek statues or Michelangelo’s David, the head is enlarged so that it looks perfectly-proportioned when viewed from the front base.

As you move away the head seems to grow. Like its Nara counterpart, the statue was originally protected in a huge wooden hall, but an enormous tsunami washed it away in 1495 and it’s stood exposed to the elements ever since. An earthquake in 1923 destroyed the stone pedestal, but the bronze image remained intact.

The “wings” in the back are shutters to allow light inside. From behind you can clearly see some of the 30 cast sections which were fused on-site.

For a small fee you can enter the Buddha and look right up into its hollow head. The whole edifice now stands on a shock-absorbed stainless-steel plate, so it should survive quakes in the future.

Sadly the rain became constant, so we abandoned our hiking course and headed back to Hase-dera to see the gilded 8th C. 9m high carving of Kannon (no photo permitted) and the thousands of Jizo, patron of the souls of departed children. 

Symbol of autumn, the Japanese Red Dragonfly. (Hasa-dera Gardens)

As well as the usual traditional noh characters, a stall outside Hachimangu Shrine also sold these more contemporary icons.

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