Our first real adventure in Japan came in the form of a pseudo-field trip from our Cultural Relations class. Encouraged to get out and interact with the locals, our Japanese teachers made a few suggestions on where to go. For me, desperate to explore the ‘real’ Japan, the Great Buddha at Kamakura was an easy choice.
The legend of the Kamakura Daibutsu holds that the temple surrounding him was destroyed by tsunamis and high winds twice in 1334 and 1369. After the second destruction, the locals (smartly… and maybe a bit lazily) thought to themselves “sounds like Buddha likes being outside” and so they never rebuilt again… And the tsunamis never returned again either (ooooooh).
The Daibutsu is one of Japan’s national treasures and from the moment we arrived by train (from an hour away) we were enthralled. He sits about thirty feet high, serene above the winter landscape, his hands held calmly in his lap and his expression wise.
We guessed our way through the ritual for the water in a long cistern at the temple entrance, pouring it over our hands in imitation of the Japanese people who’d arrived there before us, paid our several hundred yen entrance fee (approximately a couple dollars) and walked up to the Daibutsu, taking about one billion photos from every single angle.
After a bit, a Japanese man walked up to my better half and started trying out his English, and allowing us to try out our sukoshi of Japanese. Interaction with locals complete, we shelled out the 20 yen entrance fee (about twenty cents) to climb into the Daibutsu. It’s absolutely incredible that something so stunning was constructed beginning in 1252 and I couldn’t think of a better first trip to start our adventure in Japan.