I have been very tired, so I haven’t been able to update. I’ll bundle days 4 and 5 together though, because I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures on day 5 due to the wet weather. It was raining nearly all day! I had to buy a cheap umbrella, but it held up well. But now my pretty orange shoes are all dirty in the back. Boo.
I really loved a little “excursion” my sister and I took on day 4 down to Kamakura, a town south of Tokyo where we went to see a large, green Buddha (see below) and a slew of temples/shrines. I wanted to show you what the crosswalk signs look like here, because they look different! I think they are really cute. Here is the crossing sign:
And here is the stop sign:
I like that they are little humans; it definitely gives the streets a little more personality. Ok. On to the sights we saw in Kamakura.
Here is the sign indicating the path to Daibutsu, or the great green Buddha. I just really liked this sign, so I had to get a picture. Please don’t mind the humidity-hair / face. It is something I struggle with; I don’t like being hot. Ew.
The Buddha was magnificent! And really very large. I don’t know how he is so well hidden in the trees, but they have it arranged in such a way that you can’t see him until you pay and walk through the gates.
I like that this picture has people in it to kind of give you an idea of the scale of the statue. Seriously. Huge!
Do you see that hawk flying in the background? I’m not really sure why, but he was hanging around the whole time. There was a sing in the front of the complex with a picture of a hawk on it, but the words were in Japanese, so I don’t know what they said! Anyway, I thought it was a cool shot with the bird in the background.
And…one more angle. In this one you can see the offerings in the lower right-hand corner. People can bring offerings for the Buddha; things that are pretty (flowers), or things that he can eat and drink (you can’t see in this picture, but there was a watermelon and some water bottles on the table when we went).
There was a little tea house (?) behind the Buddha area and this little statue was in front of it. I thought it was beautiful with the flowering tree in the background.
I really, really loved the Hase-dera temple, which is a Buddhist temple we went to after the Great Buddha.
Isn’t that tree in front cool?! It is kind of like a giant bonsai; trained to look a certain way. This was the entrance to the temple. It was so fun to explore that one, because it had a lot more behind the gates than I expected, including a hiking trail that went pretty far up the side of the mountain and afforded an amazing view of the nearby ocean, and a pretty large-ish cave that had some amazing carvings on the walls inside. We’re talking something like 10 full-size human statues carved into the walls here. It was remarkable. Unfortunately, I have no photos of inside the cave (it was too dark!), but I have some others that would be pretty cool to show you.
Here is a shot of one of the gardens right at the entrance to the temple grounds.
More garden. Isn’t that red Japanese Maple stunning? Love, love.
This is the rear of the building you saw up on top. I liked the red tree in this one, too.
Okay. I think these guys are pretty much the cutest things ever. I mean, seriously?! They were just sitting there near a path up the side of the mountain to get to the actual temple. They are so cute!
About halfway to the actual temple, there was a little landing with literally hundreds of these little statues. There was also an area to make offerings and burn candles, incense, and ash in this spot. I thought all of them together was simply stunning.
Very near to the actual temple (which I don’t think I got a very good picture of!), there was a little food stand and eating area. These signs were posted around, and I just had to laugh at the sheer terror they seem to evoke in those reading them. It just made me giggle. It could be a horror film, they way they warn you about the birds.
Here is Clara on the hiking trail up the side of the mountain (behind the temple).
I liked these signs because there are also “Route” signs in museums to show people the right way to walk. I don’t know…Japanese society just seems very rule-driven, and even though I kind of like that, it is also a little amusing, just because it is so not American.
Here is a many-armed statue on the way up the side of the mountain. I really liked it!
And the ocean view from the top! Beautiful! I didn’t even realize how close we were to the ocean until I got to the top of this trail. It was a nice little surprise, I guess.
Back down at the ground-level gardens, I saw some Calla Lilies growing near the pond/stream thing. I had to take a picture, because I have never seen them growing before; I’ve only even seen them in bouquets! isn’t it beautiful?
Here is my favorite statue. Isn’t he so cute? I guess he is like the grandfather of the other group of three I saw earlier. Totally adorable.
This is the entrance to the cave with all the statues carved into the walls. Quite remarkable. And, the cave was pretty deep. You can’t see the exit, but it is just to the left of this photo.
Just some mild Engrish amusement.
And this one too. Like I said, mild, but amusing. :)
We walked around and shopped a lot as we made our way to another temple, this one was the temple for the god of war, and it is called Hachimangu.
This one wasn’t nearly as cool as the Hare-dera, but it was still pretty. This is a shot of the very front of it.
People can buy fortunes and then tie them onto these strings. I thought all the papers tied up together like this was really pretty, so I had to take a picture!
There was a secret, little hidden shrine up these steps. It was so nice because it was nice and private. I really loved the red banners they had up there:
I just love red!
Remember how in second grade, kids would always say, “You’re not the boss of me!” when other kids were trying to boss them around. Well, they were right…because I found the boss of them all!
I just thought it was a little funny. Okay. Last shrine of Day 4 was Engaku-ji Temple. It was pretty small and quiet, but there were some very pretty gardens.
These are the steps up to the temple, and here are some shots of the gardens:
There were some high cliffs behind the gardens which looked like they would have been fun to explore (but they were closed).
And I love the water features they have in the gardens here; they seem a very common element, and it really just makes the area so much more peaceful.
Finally, as we were riding away on the train, all of a sudden, we noticed this huge white statue coming up out of the forest!
We don’t know what it is, because it wasn’t in the guidebook under Kamakura (it was just north of Kamakura, in fact), but it was just so shocking! This is the best picture I could get because we were flying by on a train! She would have been cool to visit, so it’s a shame we didn’t know about her until we were leaving.
Today was my last full day in Tokyo; tomorrow we’ll be flying down to Okinawa (where my sister’s home is located), where we will stay for a few days before flying back up to Kyoto. Today was mostly rainy, so I didn’t get as many pictures.
This morning I went to the Zojoji temple, a Buddhist temple in Tokyo (this is the one that I saw from the top of Tokyo Tower).
This is the front of the temple and you can see Tokyo Tower behind it, which I thought was a cool contrast of old and new.
Another building on the same property. Likewise; cool old / new contrast.
I really liked this shot because you can see the top of the little incense burner mirrors the top of the Tokyo Tower.
I just liked the color of these lanterns against the green backdrop.
There was a garden with tons of small statues that represent all the unborn children of Japan. Parents can “adopt” one and care for it to ease their child’s passing into the afterlife. It was so sweet but heart-breaking at the same time.
I also went to the Mikimoto store today, which was awesome.
They are famous for first culturing pearls way back in the day, and now they are kind of like the Tiffany’s of pearls.
Funny story on how I got there. I was all by myself (Armistead and Clara had something to do, I think?), and I had never navigated the subway alone before. I figured out which station I needed to go to though, and I made it! I wasn’t sure which exit I needed to take though (each station here is quite extensive with a number of different exits), so I just randomly selected one, and long story short…once I made it outside this (above) was the view I had! I had run right into the store.
This is a close up of their entrance. There were 5 floors of merchandise (I think) and it was all beautiful!
I love pearls, so it was a treat to walk around their flagship store for a while and admire all their beautiful merchandise. Later, I bought some akoya pearls for about 1/10 of the cost of a Mikimoto set. They aren’t perfect, but they’re still quite lovely.
So…I know that the number of pictures I just posted is quite disproportionate to the amount of time spent at Mikimoto / amount of merchandise purchased there (i.e. zero), but you just need to understand how absolutely excited I was to be there!
We ate lunch a Shakey’s, an American food place. It was pretty good. It was (and I quote) a “Pizza, pasta, curry, and salad bar”. Kind of random…but look at this pizza they had there!
It was pretty good! I really liked the banana chocolate pizza.
At night we went to Shinjuku, which has the busiest train station in the world. It was a rainy Saturday night, so it was apparently quite subdued when compared to “normal,” but it was still very busy.
This is a shot at night…on their quiet day (rainy Saturday). Outside, there were lots of lights and tons of people milling around, despite the fact that it was raining!
We also went to the Municipal building, which has a viewing area on the 45th floor. I didn’t really get any pictures there because it was dark and none of the pictures would have turned out well, but it was a pretty nice view. It would have been better during the day (especially if it weren’t rainy), but oh well. It was still pretty fun. AND…I got this:
Isn’t that cute?
Okay. Since I didn’t post this yet (and it is already Monday morning), let me just give a quick Sunday update.
Sunday was a pretty chill day. We did do any sight-seeing. We were up pretty late on Saturday night, so we just hung out in the morning and packed and then went to the airport. Here is a view of Tokyo from our ride back to the airport.
It was weird at the airport, because when we left the gate, we didn’t get onto the plane, but onto a bus! We then rode the bus (Friendly Airport Limousine, that is) out onto the tarmac and got on the plane 1960’s style (with a little ramp thing). I’ve done this one other time before, in the Dominican Republic…so I guess it’s a foreign country thing?
I took one photo up in the air because it was beautiful view.
Clouds are so beautiful, don’t you think?
I couldn’t get a really great picture, but today we’re going to the aquarium, so I’ll see some more beautiful fish!
One last story about arriving to the house. Clara owns two dogs, who we babysat for an extended period of time a couple years ago (they are miniature Pinschers named Aki and Senchi…see this post for pictures of them!). Anyway, when we got to the house they were outside in the backyard (which I didn’t know). I was walking around and looked outside and saw them going crazy. I figured out how to get outside and they just about attacked me out of excitement! They were jumping around so much that they practically knocked me over! I played with them for a while, and they totally remembered me! It was the sweetest thing ever! Usually they bark at anyone they don’t know, so it was cool to see they remembered me. And now they come up and cuddle all the time.
Anyway, that is all for now! I’ll try to update better than I did the last few days. I am just so tired at night after running around all day.
ps. What do you think of Hello Kitty? I never really understood what was so cool about it when I was a kid, but I think she is pretty cute now!