Adventures of the 2016 Sakura Tour to Japan: The Ancient city of Samurai is Kamakura

The town, Kamakura is less than an hour south of Tokyo. It is near the Sagami Bay that shares sea- water with the Pacific Ocean.  Kamakura was a political capital of Japan and the birthplace of Japan’s first military government, the shogunate or the bakufu in the Japanese language.

Military threats and wars along with pessimism increased the appeal of the search for salvation that influenced the rise of Buddhist temples and shrines in Kamakura. Buddhism sects were introduced to Kamakura. The first Zen temple in Japan was founded in Kamakura.

The city is often called the Kyoto of eastern Japan because of its antique temples, shrines, cobblestone roads, old trading posts, and historical monuments.

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D-Travelers and Kanagawa Deaf Locals tour around Kamakura

Upon arrival to Kamakura, we met up with some Deaf Japanese who lived in the area.  They joined us in our tour to Kamakura.  It was great to include them as we learned other things about the old town and some new signs.  We went to see three great sites in Kamakura, the Kotokuin Temple, Hasedera and the Hokokuji Temple. We also had our first Kaiseki lunch with soba, tempura, and other Japanese side dishes.

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David and Muriel Freedman, Joan and James Revell pose with the Great Buddha

We began our tour at the Kotokuin Temple, the home of the Daibutsu also known as the Great Buddha. It is a huge bronze statue of Amida Buddha that stands at a height of 11.4 meters (37 feet). The statue was cast in 1252 and had a roof over it. It was inside a large temple hall.  In 1495, the hall was washed way by the tsunami, and since then the Buddha has been standing in the open.

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Lunch of Soba noodles and Tempura rice bowl. (Photo by James Revell)

Then we had lunch at Umenoki, which means plum tree in the Japanese language. The restaurant built in traditional Japanese architecture was across the street from the Kotokuin Temple.  It was an easy walk to the restaurant.

Following lunch, we went to the Hasedera temple.  The temple is built on a slope and the stands on a terrace.  It is famous for its eleven-headed wooden statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy.  The Kannon is the largest wooden sculpture in Japan. According to legend, it was carved from the same tree as the tall Kannon statue at the other Hasedera Temple in Nara.

A pretty garden with a pond is seen at the entrance. Other sculptures can be found on the grounds of Hasedara. There’s also a small cave where one can walk in to see more sculptures carved onto the walls of the caves. The temple is also noted for the collection of the many smaller Jizo, the patron saint of departed children and for its view of the Sagami Bay with its beaches.

Next, we took a taxi to Hokokuji Temple that is located away from central Kamakura where the many temples were situated.  Hokokuji is best known for its bamboo garden. There are approximately 2000 beautiful dark green bamboo stalks. We walked on narrow pathways around the garden to a teahouse.  There enjoyed a cup of matcha tea while meditating with views of the beautiful backdrop with a waterfall, green moss,and bamboo.

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Shelley among Bamboos

Kamakura requires you to walk up and down hills.  And by late afternoon, we were ready to sit down for our dinner of Chinese foods with new Deaf friends from the area.  We left Kamakura for Hakone Yumoto, a hot spring town.

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Elaine dresses up with the conductor’s hat while Bruce poses a smile

Upon arrival to the Hakone Yumoto station, we saw a rack with a couple of train conductor uniforms for our cosplay.  We dressed up with the hat and took silly pictures of ourselves with the trains.  Then onwards to a delicious Chinese dinner.

We  to check in our Japanese ryokan (inn) in Hakone Yumoto.  At the ryokan, we slept in a traditional style Japanese room in a futon on tatami mats.  It was our first night to experience sleeping on the floor.  There was also a natural hot spring bath with some baths that were outdoors.  After a long discussion about Japanese spa and bathing culture.  We finally got brave and took our baths together naked but with our eyes closed.  We loved the spa and missed it so much afterward.