On Sunday, I left Tokyo for the first time since arriving in Japan. I only went to Kamakura, which is about an hour away by train, but it's a step in the right direction. Tokyo is pretty sweet and I haven't quite seen all that it has to offer, but I need to pick up the pace on my greater-Japan explorations.
Kamakura, as seen above, was the capital of Japan from 1185 to 1333. Shogunates and Minamoto Yoritomo and other historical things took place in the area. As a result there are a lot of shrines and temples and such.
Knowing that I would be wandering out of the safe and civilized Tokyo and into the heart of one of Japan's heathenistic religious centers, I decided I would need protection. Fortunately for me, Nozomi, who had spent a year at the Media Lab, invited me to tag along with her and a couple Toshiba colleagues who could safeguard against my being ritualistically slaughtered to appease the blood-thirsty Buddha.
My posse (Jimmy, Nobu-san and Nozomi) and I in front of the gate to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu.
I met the Toshiba crew at the train station in Fujisawa since they all live more on the outskirts of Tokyo. Nobu-san was already there when I arrived and, though we had never met, was quickly able to identify me. I knew immediately that his keen eye for out of place foreigners would come in handy on our mission. Jimmy showed up shortly thereafter. Jimmy is originally from China. He picked up a master's degree and has worked at Toshiba for a couple years since. I didn't think to ask about it, but in retrospect it seems kind of strange that Jimmy would chose to call himself 'Jimmy' rather than a common Japanese name upon coming to Japan. After another 10 minutes or so, Nozomi arrived and we were off...to another train.
The most famous of the Kamakura temples is the Daibutsu. It's a giant Buddha that you can walk inside. It also has a pair of giant shoes that are apparently made by local children.
After the Diabutsu, we wandered over to Hase-dera, another temple. Hase-dera has a lot of outdoor statues and is laid out going up a hill. The picture up top, overlooking Kamakura was taken there. There's also a cool cave/tunnel thing with a bunch of statues inside. You could buy candles to light in front of your favorite diety statue or place smaller diety figures in an army around them. Fun!
After lunch, we went to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, the main Shinto shrine in Kamakura. The shrine itself seemed a lot like most the shrines scattered throughout Tokyo, but its location on a hill led to by a path that runs through the middle of town gave it a better appearance. Since I'd likely already incurred God's wrath by purchasing a sovenir at the Daibutsu, I figured I might as well push my luck and purchased a fortune scroll at the shrine. I got one of the good-but-not-great luck scrolls. It was in typo-ridden English and predicted that my marital situation would be resolved this year. So I've got that going for me.
While we were at the shrine some people were getting married. Or at least having their wedding pictures taken. I would have felt bad about photographing them, but as you can see, a lot of people were staring and taking pictures. I guess that's what you have to deal w/ if you want your wedding at a famous shrine.
Lastly, I sampled a chunk of fish at a local vendor's shop.
It was gross.