Kamakura, Japan

Friday, September 27, 1929

The bed last night looked like a zoo full of dinosaurs, so I put on my suit over my shorts and slept downstairs on a wicker settee, two chair pillows for my head and a long settee cushion wrapped around my feet.

This morning I went down to the Yokohama station and took a train for Kamakura, about an hour’s ride or less. The weather couldn’t have been better. Emerging from a tunnel, the town lay about us, perhaps 10 to 15,000 in population.

A long walk lead to the Hachiman Shrine—a half mile up the tree-shaded way. On either side were streets—a continuous row of shops, most all catering to the tourist trade—therefore novelties. You pass under two torii, over a small bridge, between two lotus ponds, and finally under a third torii and up a flight of steps before coming to the old shrine, now under repairs. It sits on a level area half way up the side of a wooded hill. Founded in 1063 A.D., it was dedicated to the Emperor Ojin (270-310), but the present structure dates from 1828.

The Kamakura Temple is to the south a short distance. There is a winding road to the north that leads to the Kenchoji Temple which was founded in 1249. It was the foremost of “the five temples of Kamakura” and among its images is a 16-ft. Fizo—which doesn’t look at potent as it sounds. A school is next to the temple and the usual gym class was on the drill spot going through their calesthentics (love spelling?).

Engakuji Temple is farther down the road but I was unable to locate it.

Returning down the long avenue approach to Hachiman Shrine and continuing on it nearly to the sea, I passed another school—then to the right some distance brought me to the Kannon Temple situated on a hillside and commanding a fine view of the city and sea. This one was founded in A.D. 736 and has an image within if the Goddess of Mercy, Kannon (Avalokitesvara). It is 26 ft. high, made of a single piece of camphor tree, is gilded, and has eleven faces, though ten are behind the figure on a fan-shaped affair. It has a twin-sister from the same tree—same size, etc. somewhere else in Japan. Here for the second time in Japan I was asked to make a donation toward the restoration of the temple. These Japanese temples have an altogether different air from those of many other countries where there are always one or more keepers etc. expecting—often demanding—a tip. These temples have a much more sacred atmosphere—and not a commercial one. I doubt if the thousands of Japanese who visit these temples do it in an especially religious way. It is more as they would visit some historical spots, made doubly attractive by the natural beauty and charms. But you do see the real pilgrims who have come to pray and will pass from one temple to another, getting a stamp stamped on their garments at each temple visited. It is an act of great merit to visit many, many temples.

The Daibutsu is a short distance away, approached by a gate guarded by the two vicious-looking Dwa kings. The Daibutsu or Great Buddha is 42 feet 6 inches high, and the second-largest bronze image in Japan. It is much pictured to say the least. I can remember gazing longingly at pictures of it years ago, but always had an idea—and a bum one—that it was in India.

The large building that once enclosed it was damaged by a severe storm in 1369, and was finally carried away by a great tidal wave in 1494. Since then Buddha has reposed under the stars. The thing is hollow and two sen permit you to go inside, see the small shrine, climb a stair to look out of two windows in the back, see how the plates of bronze were welded together, and finally to touch same and remark how the metal holds the heat of the sun.

Several photographers are on hand to take your picture posed beside Buddha. The whole section of town is full of novelty shops—but fortunately most have been restricted from the immediate vicinity of Buddha.

The next place of interest lies 3 or 4 miles farther, along the coast—a small town called Katase. It is the home of a temple and two pagoda, one on top of a hill commanding a splendid view for miles.

An island Enoshima (Picture Island) lies just offshore and is connected by a long wooden bridge—ten sen more. Everybody’s mother-in-law runs a novelty shop, bakery, shoe store, or tea house. And here competition is keen and they go for you with everything from postcards to shells. These women are the world’s best talkers, probably singing the various merits of their goods and lots more in less time than it takes to tell—but of course all in Japanese. Here I saw the first guide I have seen in Japan—an old fellow who wanted to guide me about the island for 40 sen—very reasonable for the time and work—but useless as there was no need for a guide.

Enoshima is a very pretty place, but too full of shops. Views from most of the tea rooms are matchless for they are built high above the water, commanding a view of the sea, mainland, and mountains to the north—Fuji included. It happened that there was a rain storm that blotted out Fuji most of the time, and when I did see it, it was not very clear.

The main thing one does on Enoshima is drag up and down long flights of stairs. There are two shrines to be seen, one in that queer architecture I noticed in Yokohama and took to be new. Since, I have seen a third shrine in that style. At the opposite end of the island you go down to a low shelf of rock that projects out a hundred yards from the cliff, and following around, come to a large cave, said to have been the home of a dragon. Whatever its past may have been, it is tame now, for one must pay 4 sen to enter and see a shrine.

Got back to Yokohama at 5:30 PM and went to my favorite place to eat. This time they charged me 15 sen for the same meal I paid 25 sen for yesterday. Some meal too. Spent the evening writing at the Y, and at ten put on my suit over the shorts, and collecting twice as many pillows as yesterday I made a bed of the settee that kept me warm and dead to the world till 7 AM.

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