The last gasp of freedom was a good one.
School starts up again tomorrow, so I thought I’d make one last foray to some of Kanto’s special places before the grind begins anew and puts a halt to that. Kamakura has been a subject of posts for me before but I haven’t been back for about a year, and with Monday another mild and sunny day it seemed like a perfect opportunity to rectify that. Normally Kamakura is about 55 minutes from Tokyo Station, but today the Yokusuka Line suffered another one of several phantom earthquake delays I’ve experienced on Japanese trains – we stopped for something like 20 minutes near Kawasaki because of an earthquake warning, but none of my twitter sources or anyone else knew anything about any earthquakes.
I mostly concentrated on places I hadn’t been on this trip, starting with the temples and shrines East of the main tourist areas. First off was Hokokuji, the “Bamboo Temple”, so named for the lovely grove of bamboo that exists behind the Hondo. Hokokuji isn’t expansive or overwhelming in itself, but packs a sort of sampler platter of Kamakura in a compact, beautiful package. It has 13th and 14th Century halls, the aforementioned bamboo grove, a zen rock garden, and even several Yagura – the cave tombs for which Kamakura is famous.
Hokokuji’s neighbor is Sugimotodera, purportedly the oldest temple in Kamakura (founded 735). There’s not much to see at the moment except scaffolding, sadly, as the main hall is under construction, but there’s a nice feel of true antiquity to the long stairwell approach and a very nice view of Fuji-san from the top.
After a brief stop at the jam-packed Hachiman-gu Shrine (where despite Hachiman being the Kami of war I saw this peaceful omen), it was off to Meigetsu-in, one of the most beautiful temples in Kamakura. It, too, has Yagura, as well as a famous round window that any Kyousougiga fan would recongize for its similarity to the one at Genkoan in Kyoto. Meigestuin also has a rabbit motif – which I assume is due to the connection of the name to the moon – even keeping a small colony of bunnies on-site in their own hutch. It also has a gentle sense of whimsy to it that you don’t often see at Zen temples.
Last major stop of the day were the two shrines West of the city, Sasuke-Inari and Zeniarai Benten (about which I’ve blogged before). The light was fading here in the deep woods of the former and the caves of the latter, but these are certainly two of the more atmospheric shrines in Kanto.