For people that wish to see traditional Japan, one can see Kyoto to see how nobility lived, or one can go to Kamakura, the centre of samurai culture. I’ve been to Kyoto many times, but this was my first to Kamakura. I am not sure if it has to do with unusual weather patterns this year, but even in December, the multicoloured leaves of autumn were still very much apparent. Without the power lines that so often obstruct the view of what would otherwise be an extremely beautiful scene in Japan, it is no wonder so many people flock to Kamakura on a day off or for a vacation many, many times.
The first stop I made was Enkakuji (円覚寺).
Within, there is a historical bell, Ohgane:
Further into the temple area, there is a very picturesque pond, 妙香池 Myoukouji.
After walking around awhile, I went to 建長寺 Kenchouji next. It was not so colourful in the main temple area, but it did have an older feel to it. That includes the moss growing on different parts of the temple grounds. This Temple is a Zen temple, and they have a “retreat” for foreigners every three months. One such retreat was offered during my stay in Japan, but I woke up too late that day to take part.
Further in, I did find the wonderful multicoloured leaves. It reminded me of my time in Korea.
For lunch, I was taken to a 精進料理 Shoujin Ryori (Japanese Vegetarian) restaurant, Hachinoki. Shoujin Ryori uses vegetarian ingredients like soy beans, nuts, sprouts, leaves, fruit, and roots according to what is seasonally available. Preparation of Shoujin Ryori can be considered a Buddhist practice.
After lunch and after finding an obscenely overpriced parking space (2000円 per hour), I was taken to 鶴岡八幡宮 Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, a Shinto Temple. This place had a lot more people, and they had a lot of different fortune tellers. I know some people in Taiwan that believe the fortunes here. I like to think of fortune telling as a kind of story telling, and the story here was not so interesting. Still, I enjoyed seeing the grounds and watching the people.
There are different types of fortunes available. You can write a wish on a wooden placard (500円). You can also pull a fortune out of a box (200円). I did both. The first fortune I pulled out in Japanese noted that for the next 12 months (that is the validity of these predictions) I would be without fortune – not good, not bad, but neutral. I did not think too much of that fortune, so against the wishes of my hosts, I paid another 200円 and pulled another fortune. That fortune was bad. I was encouraged to tie the fortune to a string (where many others had already done so) and pray about the fortune. Of course, why would I want to pray for a fortune that was bad? So I did the only reasonable thing, which was to take pictures of the fortunes (as they at least are useful as Japanese reading practice and vocabulary building) and then tear them up and throw them into the garbage.
The final temple I went to in Kamakura that day was 高徳院 Koutokuin, which is famous for its uncovered large bronze Amitabha Buddha. It is possible to go inside, as it is hollow, but hard to see. Nearby a pair of sandals apparently belonging to the Buddha hung on the wall.
Outside, there was another fortune box. This time, it was only 100円, and it supposedly only concerned love. Success! I got a supposedly positive fortune for the upcoming year. Though it was only supposed to concern love, it included everything, such as what to be careful about when taking a test. Unless a test proctor becomes my next lover, I am not sure how relevant it is, but I was happy to get a positive fortune, even if the fortune itself was almost entirely a variation of “A good fortune is possible, but it won’t necessarily occur.”
Before leaving Kamakura, I drank some matcha in a rustic-looking coffeehouse and got some sweet potato crisps. If only I had brought a bag from Taiwan – there you can buy ginormous bags of sweet potato crisps for the cost of one of these little bags in Kamakura.