Monday, June 3, 2013

Kamakura Part One : Engakuji Temple Wherefore Art Thou?

Visiting Kamakura was one of the highlights on my one-week Tokyo holiday, undeniably one of the best decisions I've ever made! A word of caution though, summer in Kamakura might sound delightful but if you're anything like me, your spirit and enthusiasm for exploring might just drop as the temperature rises. Or as the Japanese say it, "テンションが下がりました!". Tension down lol but still, no regrets! Started off early in the morning to a quiet train platform and I think we got sort of confused with the many different train lines. Generally I was pretty darn prepared for this entire trip, with pages of handwritten notes on the different places of interest, how to get there, localized specialities to try out as well as what to eat but I must have forgotten to bring them along on this day trip to Kamakura fml.

So we took a train, and I was staring at the map/guide half fearing that we took the wrong line when a Japanese girl sitting next to me spoke up to ask (in English) if I was lost and needed help. Thank goodness for her because as it turns out, it was really the wrong line and she offered to take us down the next station and lead us towards the correct platform. So grateful for kind people like her who go out of their way to help strangers! Apparently this is a common occurance when the Japanese notice tourists who look lost, they'll approach them to offer advise and assistance even if their English's not all that great. And you wonder why I rave so much about this incredible country hahaha ʘ‿ʘ

Guess who I spotted at the platform!

Sakurai Sho on the vending machine, endorsing the Oronamin C drink! (ღ˘⌣˘ღ)  

No, I didn't buy it after much contemplation. At that time it'll cost me about RM4.50 which I decided was not worth the money spend. Budget trip okay cannot simply free for all indulge in every single want! *determind but that said, I did spend quite some amount money this entire trip feeding vending machines for my spur-of-the-moment-lets-try-out-that-random-weird drink (AND ICE CREAM)  moments. Trip from Shinagawa Station to Kita-Kamakura (north Kamakura) took a little less than one hour. I must have fallen asleep because next thing I know we were already close to our destination haha I knew we were close because of the significant difference from the usual bustling train stations in Tokyo city. I think train stations in Tokyo city could even serve as malls sometimes what with the number of shops in them ranging from restaurants of various cuisines, souvenir shops, multiple convenience stores, independant boutiques, to generic big names like Uniqlo. Train station with Uniqlo. Can you even?

Now compare that thought to this little station. So quiet and quaint I was starting to like Kamakura already ♥


Train station staff apparently didn't know if there were any good places to eat nearby 
( I suspect they bring their own bento lunches made by their skillfull housewives)
so we decided to have brunch at this soba store just outside the station. 
Don't ask me what is it called 'cause all I can read is the first character "ki" hahahah

Hot weather calls for ice cold soba. Wasn't fantastic though and ain't cheap either. 

After brunch it was time for some temple run exploration! *puts on sunblock

Okay next thing I know we were, again, lost. I remember a wooden sign pointing to some temples/shrines on the right so we headed right and walked and walked and walked but still couldn't find anything and there wasn't many people around. Even stopped by a coffee shop to grab some coffee while taking a breather in the air con (people here are so cheerful and friendly) before we found out that the temples/shrines are all on the OTHER side. Had to make a little detour and walk back to the station, to find the temple/shrine located just five minutes from there on. Sigh, see what happens when you're not prepared. Here are some of the shops we pass by so when you come visit Kamakura and you see these shops/landmarks, TURN BACK TURN BACK NOW. 


More train tracks because (if you can't already tell) I really like them.

Finally, we found somewhere worth stopping by and going in!

This is the Engakuji Temple (円覚寺), founded in 1282 and ranked number two of Kamakura's Five Mountains of Great Zen Temples. Yes mountain, yes there'll be climbing. I must confess though, I'm a little confused now because the kanji characters at the entrance pictured above obviously differs from the Engakuji Temple's kanji character (円覚寺) and I've cross checked, none of the temples/shrines in Kamakura has yama or san as the first few syllables in its name, which is symbolized by the 山 kanji character. I have no idea how the other two kanji characters is read nor what they mean so...yeah. Based on the photo sequence, let's just assume this is the correct entrance towards Engakuji Temple okay! Plus the inside area looks similar to the next photo below so it must be correct. Entrance fee costs ¥300, which is approximately RM12 at that time. As you enter there'll be certain buildings/areas where you'd need to pay a similar fee to enter as well but take note that we didn't go for it haha kiamsiap

Ticket counters and little stalls selling souvenirs. Spot the Coke truck!

Love the lush greens here, shade from blinding hot sun!

Entrance ticket, which in itself is already a souvenir. Budget trip budget trip!

Stairs leading up to the first main building...

 The huuuuuuge two-storied Sanmon (山門) gate which dates back to 1783.
Note the papan   hanging at the top, with faded red writings on it.
The caligraphy was done about 800 years ago by the Emporer at that time.

So majestically built with solid wood carved with beautiful designs, without the use of a single nail. Can't help but to touch and trace the wood lines, feeling all the years at the tip of my finger.

Apparently Engakuji Temple also serves as a training monastery. Honestly though after going further up from Sanmon Gate, it feels like I'm entering a village because of the wide spaces and many buildings. It is said that there are 18 buldings/monuments within this area and one of them, called the Shariden was designated as Japan's National Treasure because it holds one of Buddha's tooth. Too bad it wasn't accessible, but even if it was I wouldn't know where to start looking for it because like I said, this place is huge! So huge I'm not even going to attempt at captioning the following pictures taken at multiple parts of the temple. So much walking!

Poor little tree forgot it's no longer autumn.
Or a little too prepared for autumn?

Myokochi Pond. Wouldn've been more beautiful is the water was clearer though haha! 

My favourite flower - hydrangeas ♥ More reasons to love Kamakura!

I love how the shades are always so different ♥ 
As it rains more often, the colours get deeper.

Embracing the sunlight (unlike me teehee)

MY FAVOURITE SIGN EVER °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖° Give me my flavoured shaved ice!

Besides the Buddha's tooth, there's this Ogane Bell standing at 2.5 metres tall that was also designated as Japan's National Treasure. Not sure if the above picture is the correct one, but it's the only one I saw at the top of the Engakuji Temple hill. Must be correct right right right hahahaha wish I could read kanji and life (in Japan) would be so much easier! But yes we've reached the top of the hill finally I could barely stand the weather anymore. Make me feel like I don't want to do anything besides lounge under the shade slurping flavoured shaved ice while enjoying any hilltop breeze I can get. There's a little teahouse here too but it's pretty expensive for me so I skipped the sweets and tea. Let's enjoy the free view instead hahahaha!

Don't know what this signifies, but seem pretty important lol *ignorant tourist

That's about it for this first part of the Kamakura trilogy haha all in all a visit to Engakuji Temple took about an hour or so. I've heard that the view throughout is incredible in the autumn though but hey, no hydrangeas in the autumn! Anyways, more quaint temples to come! 

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