September 07, 2007

A trip to Kamakura

For the last weekend of my summer holidays I decided to go on a short trip. Saturday was Yokohama under grey skies, and in the Sunday morning sunshine it was juts a short train journey to Kamakura, the ancient capital, and nowadays famous for its temples and surfing.

The sites in Kamakura are fairly spread out, so I decided to rent a bike for a few hours, which was surprisingly expensive (though I was later to discover that many things were overpriced here). The bike also turned to have a small electric motor to assist on hills, so it was simple to cycle up and down the hills without breakig a sweat.

First stop was Hasedera, a temple with fairly large gardens, a cave and a nice view over the bay. They also had good mango lollies on sale to quench your thirst!

From there it was a short ride to one of Kamakura's most famous sights ~ the Daibutsu (Big Buddha). The temple it was orginally housed in was destroyed in a tsunami centuries ago, and since then he has been sitting serenely outside come rain or shine. It's a pretty impressive sight and for an extra 20 yen you can go inside the bronze statue, which in the summer is pretty much like paying to step into a kiln ~ and of course the interior view is nowhere near as impressive as the outside.

After the crowds at the Daibutsu, it was time for something quieter, which involved a ride back to the centre and out again up a long incline (luckily with the electric motor it was no problem) towards Kamakura Kita station. Nearby there is a small temple called Tokeji (so poorly signposted I almost cycled past), which is located in a lush green garden surrounded by forest. It was very peaceful (cicadas aside) and relaxing, and if the clock hadn't been ticking on the bike rental, I could have happily spent all afternoon sitting in the gardens.

Passing back through the centre there was enough time for a quick stop at Hachimangu, a huge shrine complex that dominates the centre of Kamakura. The main shrine is housed at the top of some steps, though there are several smaller shrines, impressive gardens and lily ponds to take in as well on your trip.

After returning the bikes, it was time for refreshments, though I found that a lot of places were quite over-priced, so not wanting to pay 800 yen for a coffee I plumped for Starbucks. In the one day, I think I only really scratched the surface of Kamakura, though at the same time there is a limit to how many temples you can take in at a time. Good fun all the same.

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