For our last full day in Japan, our hosts took us to Kamakura city. As we disembarked from the train, we had to wait for it to leave before we could exit the station by walking across the tracks.


Our first stop was the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) of Kamakura. The first construction was originally of wood in 1243. However, it was damaged by a storm just a few years later. In 1252, it was recast in bronze from several separate pieces and assembled just as you see it here.

Look at the mouse over picture to see the entrance to the temple grounds.

While the statue is now out in the open, it was originally sheltered within a great hall. Three times the hall was destroyed by natural catastrophes and once again rebuilt. The fourth hall was destroyed in 1495 and one last attempt was made to restore it in 1718, but failed when the patron supporting the construction died. Thus, since 1495, the Buddha has been exposed to the sun and rain. In 1923, a great earthquake destroyed the base, but left the body unharmed. The base was restored a few years later. The last repair was done in 1960 to add a brace inside the hollow body under the lap to support the chest and head. Also, the base was modified to allow it to move freely in the event of another earthquake. It weighs approximately 121 tons, is about 13 meters (43 feet) tall and 9 meters (30 feet) wide, from knee to knee.

In the mouse over picture, you can actually walk inside the Buddha. There is a ladder (handrail visible on the left, but it was closed during our visit) that allows you to climb up and actually stand inside the head of the Buddha. I can imagine that under the right circumstances, that could be quite a transcendental experience.


For lunch we had a bento box lunch of tempura and soba at this little restaurant just a short way from the Great Buddha. It's the meal display on the left.

After seeing it in anime (Wedding Peach for one) so many times, I was delighted to find this small crepes shop. The sweet, wafer-thin, buckwheat pancakes are baked on a huge round stovetop and trimmed around to form a perfect circle. Then they are rolled up in a cone shape with fruit and ice cream. It was a uniquely delicious dessert following our bento lunch.

On our way to the next stop, we saw a musician playing this stringed instrument by beating the strings with small wands. Our host told us that this must be a Chinese instrument because he had never seen its like in Japan before.

We arrived at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine just in time to see a wedding ceremony. You can zoom into the happy couple under the red Japanese wagasa umbrella. You can also see the red torii gate, the traditional entrance to a Shinto shrine. 


Once again we had the opportunity to purchase a fortune. The process was the same, shake the canister, draw out a stick and match it to a drawer. This time, Jennifer pulled the very best fortune. Her friend received a good fortune.

The mouse over picture shows the main plaza leading up to the shrine.

Up the 61 steps of the stone stairway, we see the Tower gate leading into the main hall of the shrine. To the left of the stairs is a giant ginkgo tree. This tree is over 1000 years old and 31 meters (100 feet) tall.

On the mouse over, you can see two women in formal kimono walking towards the shrine.


Here we see a couple bringing their infant to the shrine to express gratitude to the Shinto deities and to receive blessings from the Shinto priest. Since this was Sunday, there were many such ceremonies taking place.

Due to the mixing of Shintoism and Buddhism before the Meiji Restoration of 1868, there are two statues guarding the entrance in a manner similar to a Buddhist temple. However, instead of the Nio gods, there are two court nobles wearing formal costumes.

That evening, we returned home. For dinner, we had an unusual international meal; Domino's pizza and sushi rolls. Afterwards, we watched the Simpsons in Japanese. That was an interesting experience. All the voices were of the same tone and expression as their American counterparts except for Marge, who had an unnaturally high voice.

The next morning, May 20th, we prepared to take a bus to the Narita airport. We had time for one last photo in front of our host's home. Thanks to their kind and generous help, our last few days in Japan had been a crowning experience and a wonderful way to end our trip. To the left is the mother and to the right is the grandfather. Next to Jennifer is her friend holding my sword from Kyoto and those darn flagstaffs. From Mount Fuji to Hakone, to Odawara, to Kyoto, to Hiroshima, to Miyajima, to Kurashiki and back to Tokyo, we made it.

It had been the most incredible trip of my entire life.