Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cycling Japan 2013 Day 5 - A Day Trip To Rustic Kamakura

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Cycling Japan Day 5 : A Day Trip To Rustic Kamakura
Entrance gate into Engakuji Temple.
Kamakura, Japan : 11th November 2013
Small Group Ride - Tokyo>Kita Kamakura>Zuriokusan Engakuji>Tsurugaoko Hachimangu Shrine>Kenchoji Temple>Kamakura>Tokyo
Distance : 123.06 km. (to & fro including train ride)
Time : 8:00am to 9:00pm
Duration : 13 hours (Including train rides, visits to temples & shrines, breakfast, lunch & dinner, and a good coffee break at Kamakura)

Route map of our Tokyo-Kamakura Day 5 Ride (click here for map link)
This will be an interesting day! We will be heading out of Tokyo by with our bikes in their bags. Our destination is Kamakura, a town about sixty kilometres away. Kamakura was once the capital of Japan when the shoguns were holding the helm.


A group photo before we head into the Tokyo station.
 7:30 am - We left K's House and took a half-hour ride to the Tokyo Station. This is one of the busiest station in the world, so we decided to wait it out a while to avoid the peak period before we go in.


The bag that Kim used to bring her bicycle over on plane was too bulky to use for a bike-packing trip; ingeniously she got some garbage bags and tapped it around her bag and Walah! As seen above, it's all suitably wrapped ("bagged") up for taking aboard the train.
Please note that the Japanese train authorities are very strict in only letting bagged bicycles into the trains.


We got off at the Kita-kamakura Station (that's one station before the Kamakura Station) as we wanted to visit the Zuriokusan Engakuji Temple just next to this station.
Our introduction to the rusticity of the place began the moment we got off from the train; even the ticket return box for exiting the station was made of pine wood...

ZURIOKUSAN ENGAKUJI TEMPLE
... and the information signboards within Engakuji grounds were also of pine wood. It states that the temple was founded in 1292 to honour those who died during the unsuccessful Mongolian invasion of Japan. Kamakura was the key point in which the Mongolian Invasion of Japan, coming from the South China ports, tried to make landfall onto the Japanese islands.


Just after passing the ticketing counter, a large entrance pavilion greeted us .


The main temple building.


Within the main temple, an altar with a large statue of Buddha...


... and above it a ceiling mural of a dragon.


Engakuji sits on the foothills on the outskirts of Kamakura that slowly slope upwards. It's grounds is quite large, and as we walked further in, the place slowly unfolded like the pages of a travel booklet.


Colourfully shaded walkways...


Buildings with thatched hay roofs...


Nice wooden entrance gates... and much, much more (... see more at Engakuji blog).
__________________________________________________________________________


Having finishing enjoying Engakuji, we rode down heading towards Kamakura town itself; passing through this unique open tunnel. It's actually not a tunnel, but arches on the left supporting a retaining wall on the right.


Along the way we stopped for lunch at this way-by cute little restaurant. Food here should be cheaper than in Kamakura town, where many tourists will be thronging.


A few of us had this Bara Don & Udon Half-set (half set meaning smaller portions). The rice was topped up with nicely barbecued pork slices sitting over a carpet of salad. The Udon came with pieces of tofu and flowery Japanese fish cake.


TSURUGAOKA HACHIMANGU SHRINE
After lunch, we rode into town and stopped by at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Whilst Engakuji is a Buddhist Temple, this one is Shinto place of worship. Today, this place seems to be crowded with people, there must be some sort of festival ongoing.


It was not a major festival day, but the school term was starting soon and many parents have brought their children to pray to do well in their studies. It was good timing for us, as these children came dressed in traditional Japanese costumes - kimonos for the girls and school tuxedos for the boys. Kim & Hui Min just could not resist posing with these cute children.


The minor festival has created a gaiety spirit, a friendly spirit too. These Japanese, came, dressed up in costumes, just to be a part of the happy festivities.


A young Japanese couple (she in a kimono and he in a traditional Japanese robe) sportingly posed with me at the lake at the entrance.


On the the stairs up to the main temple, this little girl posed in a pink and red kimono, looking seriously adult while her father took photos of her.


The main building of the shrine, the climb up is through a long and wide stairs.


On the left annexe, wooden tablets with personalized pray inscriptions have been put up, so that the gods can view the requests written on them.


In oner corner, prayers have been written on paper which were then nicely folded and hung up for the gods too.


In the building, the schoolchildren were praying to the gods, praying very hard for to excel in their studies and have a successful education.


Back down at street level, a model was posing in a beautiful traditional Japanese bridal costume, one with white cranes and green pine trees.
She was exquisitely elegant (... see more at Hachiman-gu blog).

The beauty & the gaiety at Hachimangu made us reluctant to leave the place, yet leave we must as there are other places to visit. We left and rode back up to the to see the Kenchoji Temple.


KENCHOJI TEMPLE
The entrance into Kenchoji Temple is a remarkably simple, small gate. Beyond this is the ticketing counter, the entrance fee for adults is 300Y. After the entrance there is a couple of rows of souvenir shops.


Being a Buddhist temple, most of the buildings are quite similar to those of Engakuji, built of heavy timber structures. The architecture is also alike to that of the awesomely colossal Todaiji Temple in Nara (... see Todaiji Temple blog).


To one side of the entrance pavilion is a bell shed with a thatched roof. Most temples will have these giant bells, some are at conspicuous spots up front, others at secluded corners of the building or compound.


The three main buildings of the Kenchoji Temple.


Inside is an altar to Buddha, the design almost similar to that at Engakuji, with this one having a simple lotus ceiling.


At the main temple building is an intricate golden door spanned over by a similarly intricate archway. Although this is the main doorway, entry is not allowed through here but through side doors. I wonder what is the significance of this?
(... see more at Kenchoji Temple blog).


KAMAKURA TOWN
Kamakura town's mains street is lined with low shop-houses mostly of older design. Together with the cherry trees at the central walkway, it gives a real rustic feeling. It was only 4:00pm and the weather was getting rather cold, so we covered up more to keep warm.


Dankazura, the walkway at the centre of main street Kamakura Town, lined with cherry trees it must be a pretty sight during spring with the cherry in full blossom.


Shivering, we thought it was best to get indoors and this place, a coffee+gallery & piano parlour was just appropriate.


It's an odd place to find in very Japanese Kamakura - it serves good foreign coffee, sells souvenirs (mostly Japanese but some from overseas) and plays piano Jazz music; a very un-Japanese place in a very Japanese town. We sipped our coffee and admired the pieces on display for sale and relaxed to the mood of the place.


Taking a last look at Hachimangu shrine, we rode of to the Kamakura Station and left for Tokyo, leaving a piece of our heart and a part of our soul here - that's the effect Kamakura have on visitors.


Back in Tokyo, the night scene of the skyscrapers at the Tokyo Station though beautiful was no match to that at Kamakura.


KUMBAWA...
till tomorrow then.

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