Sunday, September 6, 2009

And then I forgot...

So I haven't touched this in quite some time. And if anyone has been waiting for me to update, which I doubt, I apologize for my lazyness. It has been almost exactly two months since I have posted.

The funny thing is quite a lot has happened in this period of time. In fact, some of the most interesting events to happen to me in Japan happened during that period. So I am going to endeavor to record at least one of these events every week for the next few weeks in order to write everything down. I'm not particularly good at keeping up this kind of thing, I am actually surprised and relatively pleased that I kept it up as much as I did.

The first thing I want to talk about happened Sunday the 26th I believe. At the farewell party held by MGU I met one of the male buddies named Aru. We had seen each other before at some of the dorm parties, but didn't really hang out much. Me and the rest of the WAC girls invited him and Yukiko, one of the other buddies, to come with us to Fridays, yes, there are Friday's in Tokyo, had a lovely time, ate a lot of delicious food I hadn't had in months. I mentioned that I wanted to see Kamakura, and the 大仏 and go see the beach and some of the other temples and things. Aru said he lived in Kamakura and offered to take anyone who had time to go on a tour.

Danyelle, Wendy, and I ended up being the only ones to go, but it was nice to go in such a small group. We woke up very early and rode the train into one of the stations close to Kamakura, but not Kamakura its self. Aru met us at the station and we walked to the first temple, which was this big georgeous complex, with really steep hills, and beautiful dark wood and white stucco structures. It was really peaceful, especially cause it was so early in the morning. I liked walking in the cool under the trees. All of the temples were really peaceful, but the ones outside of Tokyo are much more so, they don't seem so rushed, it gives you time to enjoy nature and the placement of art around the temples and how nature interacts with the buildings.

The temple buildings were these beautiful wooden structures. The old gate out front was huge, it is amazing that something that old, made such a long time ago by means we consider primitive and made from wood, could last such a long time. The carvings were beautiful, of dragons and birds and flowers. I believe the ceiling in one of the buildings in this complex was painted with different cranes, representing the thousand cranes that will grant a wish. And they were adorned with gold leaf, spanning over the giant Buddha underneath.

In another temple we went to they had a statue of a Buddha done in a very modern, and rather macabre light. It was the starved Siddhartha, sitting under the tree. The Buddha looked emaciated, frail, and anything but holy. But it really makes you think about the sacrifices you must make to better yourself, and how sometimes you must come to the point of self destruction, it order to join the great all. It was kind of creepy, but I think it was a very beautiful statue too.

In another temple, there was a building, where you could take you shoes off and go to this lovely veranda that wrapped around an open air room with different kannon on the inside. The back of this veranda looked out onto this GLORIOUS man made zen landscape, with a beautiful little robin eggs blue pond that reflected the color of the sky. And grass so green and untouched it looked like it came out of a painting. There was a little stone bridge that went over the thinnest part of the pond where it bottle necked, the bridge looked so worn and old, I don't even want to guess at how old it was. I rock was embedded in the grass, so the grass looked like a sea lapping around it, seamlessly connected with no indication of how far down the rock went. There was also a little gnarly pine on top of one of the rolling hills that framed the scene, some little magpies were flitting about on the tree.

As we sat, we saw these two birds spot bugs and chase them over the water, and up the hills, around the tree, chasing them almost to the porch and then both pulling up at the last second to avoid running into people. At one point the bird caught the tail of a butterfly, chasing this way and that, so that the butterfly skidded off the water for a minute, escaping momentarily, only to be swooped down upon. It was really quite a show. But very peaceful and exciting at the same time. Natures circle at work.

In one temple there were symbols that looked like the Zelda tri-force every where. We were all very confused for a while, until we had Aru ask a man at the front gate what they meant. Apparently they were the family crest of a local family who donated large sums to the temples, and thus received honor through the symbols and protection of the temple. It was very interesting, and sure enough, we saw the exact same symbols at more temples, on rafters on roofs, on doors, on stones, by lanterns.

The art in the temples was amazing. One of my favorite sources of art from all of the temples are the rock engravings that are scattered all around temple grounds. Usually in some kind of garden, or in a court yard area you can find many foot tall stone slabs engraved with the effigies of different kannon. Many of them have little stacks of yen in front of them or on top of them.

In one of the courtyards there were about 80 of these little half statues, with the raised part of therock where their hands or things the kannon were carrying were were piled with yen. Some had flowers or other tributes on or around them. It was beautiful walking through them, loking at the careful detail that remains after Buddha knows how many years, slowly being smoothed down by the weather and time. It really was lovely.

In another of the temples, there was a little walk way that led to the top of this path, past one of the houses where the monks were. It had tiny statues scattered trough the underbrush. Old stone monuments, looking like little dwarfs poking their heads up along the path, most under a meter tall. I even saw one that looked like it had been carved from a piece of an old tree root, was just sitting on top of tree stump, that had been hollowed out by rain, and the remaining water filled hole had yen in it, and piles of yen around the little figure it's self.

During this trip, for lunch, we went to this special kind of soba noodle shop called nagashi somen. We sat out side on this really really long pick-nick table kind of thing, that had a halved bamboo stalk in the middle, angled downward slightly. They turn a little faucet on at the top of the bamboo and plop little rounds of soba noodles and send them sliding down the shoot, where you have to pluck them out with your chop sticks. They give you little bowls of broth and spices and an egg cake (kinda like an omelet slice). Another popular food stuff in Kamakura is sweet potato, which are very un-like the yams we are used to. They are pale on the inside, and have a dark purple peel. They gave us a kinda of mush, made from pureed sweet potato to mix into the broth. It was very good, and though it was a little expensive (about 25$/person) they really feed you a lot. It's up to you to keep eating, cause they will keep throwing noodles down until everyone stops eating. I was so stuffed after words. It is really very fun because you have to watch what everyone else on your side of the table is doing, and be courteous and ask the people down the stable from you if you want any more. It was a lot of fun.

After visiting the Dai Buttsu we made our way down to Kamakura beach. Besides an icky port-a-potty the beach was rather nice. I love the ocean, and Kamakura was wonderful. The water was warm, and relatively clear. I had fun splashing around in the waves, body surfing back to shore.

At one point this guy came up to me with one of the little pots they hold plants in before potting them. He handed it to me and said "present". I looked in it and found that there was a little crab in it. I tried to give it back to him, but he said it was a present. So it took it and carefully swam as far out as I could and tossed the little thing back into the water, then swam back to shore to avoid it pinching my little toes.

The beach was so nice. I love the ocean and Kamakura was an awesome beach. It was the first sand beach I have been to since I went to Kitty Hawk my senior year. It had a lot of little sea side shacks that offered music, food and booze, as well as a place to sit and relax out of the sun. It was all of course way overly priced, but it was still rather nice. We stayed at the beach for a really long time, about 4 hours.

Once we were all good and tired out we went back towards where the train station was. There was this really awesome, but smokey Okonamiyaki joint. It was Tabemono, so we could eat and order as much as we wanted to within two hours. It was amazing, and they had an awesome selection. I stuffed my self more than I can possibly describe. I loved the curry flavored and the kimchi flavored Okonamiyaki and ordered two yaki soba. It was sooooo good.

The only problem was that they sat us upstairs and that there was NOOO ventilation up there. So all of this smoke pooled in the room, and it was terrible combined with sea water eyes. We all ended up crying our eyes out and having to go to the bathroom repeatedly to wash our eyes out. So that kinda sucked, but the food was so good, and as more people in the tables next to us left, it was better.

We all parted ways kinda close to 11, it had been a very long, but an amazing day. It was probably the best day of my time in Japan. I loved it, and a big shout out thanks to Aru for taking Danyelle, Wendy, and me.

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