So I finally got some time to post pics from the weekend on flickr. I think I got some decent pics. It was a great weekend. We slept in and made it to Kamakura by 1:00 or so. Kamakura is only 15 minutes away by train, so if the weather is nice and I have the time, I might go back. Kamakura is nice, but it isn't nearly as amazing as Kyoto was. Then again, I went to Kyoto when I was 17 and it was my first time out of the country, so maybe I was just easily amazed...
We couldn't have asked for better weather. It was cool and overcast. Maiko was even cold enough to put on a long sleeve shirt. It started raining at one point, so I gave in and bought an umbrella. After shelling out $5 for a tiny little crappy umbrella, it stopped raining.
We had lunch at a noodle shop. It was a little pricey because this is a tourist town, but it was really good. After lunch we went to see the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) of Kamakura. I have seen the great Buddha at Todaiji temple in Nara, so I wasn't too impressed. I hate to sound cynical about places of worship, but the temple grounds at Kamakura were small and very touristy (gift shop 30 feet from the Great Buddha). The lesson here - if you are going to see a big statue of Buddha in Japan, go to Nara.
But at least I can say 'been there, done that'. We stopped at a dessert place on the main road so I could have a crepe. This was the first time I have ever had crepes. I think it's pretty amusing that I've had so many foreign foods in Japan that I have never had the chance to eat in the U.S. It was tasty (but again, kinda pricey). We then went to Hasedera, which was fantastic. Kamakura is full of famous temples and shrines, most of which we didn't see, but I still feel confident in saying that Hasedera is a must see. This is apparently the best time of year to go, because the Ajisai (Hydrangea) were in bloom. There is a steep hill that is almost completely covered in these flowers that you can climb (on the stairs) and enjoy the blooming flowers and the view of the faraway mountains and beach. The temple grounds are also very beautiful, complete with little Buddha statues everywhere. This temple is dedicated to Kannon the patron 'saint' (bodhisattva) of children. People can purchase little statues, candles, or prayer blocks that are dedicated to their children or other family members. Some of these prayers go out to children who died young and some are dedicated for safe delivery of a child-to-be.
Hasedera has a treasure room where you can look at various historical and religious artifacts. I wish I could have posted pictures of this room and of the main temple hall, but photography is forbidden in these places. There is also a cave full of prayer candles. It seemed like every time we thought we had seen everything, something new appeared before our eyes.
We were beat after walking around all day, but we decided to go out for dinner anyway. We ate at a yakiniku (Korean BBQ) restaraunt. You order various plates, including raw meat and vegetables and grill them yourself at the table. It's expensive, but worth every penny in my opinion. I ate way too much and had a bit of a grumbling in my stomach on Monday, but it was worth it. YUM!
Anyway, I am with the Military Base (Countermeasures) Division. So far I have just sat down with some officials and gotten an explanation of what they do. I am going to tour some parks and other facilities that were former military bases returned to the city at various points since WWII. Tomorrow, I have an easy day of sitting around and going through my materials and organizing my research. Last week, one day was only enough to go through about 10% of what I had received up to that point. Ugh...
Thursday I am going to the American Naval Base again. They set up a meeting for me with the American emergency manager here, then I am going to tour the commander's office in the afternoon. On Friday I get to go to an SDF (Japanese military) base and take a tour. Hopefully I can get some pictures, but since these are military facilities, my guess is I won't have too many I can publish.
Wow... I didn't think I was going to write so much. Check out the new pics!