A Weekday Visit to Temples in Kamakura

During our stay in Kyoto two weeks ago Mark and I visited seven different temples and shrines in three days. I loved the time to wander at my own pace, and I made myself a promise to visit similar sites closer to home.

So this morning my day began rather typically–after getting the kids out the door to school, I started laundry and took the dog to the vet for shots. With the basics covered, I hopped in the car and headed for Kamakura, a city 25 km to the south.

IMG_0529Like Kyoto, Kamakura served as Japan’s capital before Tokyo. And like Kyoto, Kamakura features dozens of religious sites, with sixty-five temples and nineteen shrines. Previously I have visited well known places like Hasedera, Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu and the giant Buddha at Kotoku-in. For today’s outing I decided to venture out to new temples.

IMG_0511Originally I intended to follow one of the excellent hiking courses recommended by the City of Kamakura website. I mentioned my planned outing to my friend Janet, and she immediately suggested a stop at the Bamboo Temple, Hokokuji. I decided to start my visit there, then see whatever else was nearby. That led to stops at Jomyoji Temple and Sugimotodera, the oldest temple in Kamakura.

While I considered asking a friend or two to join me, I ultimately decided to make it a solo outing for purely selfish reasons. I wanted the chance to wander as I wanted, or linger at different places, or spend ten minutes taking the same photo over and over with slightly different camera settings without worrying about inconveniencing someone else.

IMG_0480Ninety minutes and three temples later, I returned the car and headed home to the afternoon routine of more laundry, homework, instrument practice, and dinner prep.

I hope to visit more new-to-me Kamakura sites on a regular basis. And next time I may even bring a friend or two along.



The Kids Are Gone! Or, Two Days in Kyoto

Last week the kids went on a school ski trip. Both kids, at the same time! All four of us have been anticipating this trip since learning of it shortly after our arrival in Yokohama over two years ago. So after Mark delivered the children and ski gear to meet the bus, we headed straight for the shinkansen station. Our destination: Kyoto.

After two hours of shinkansen magic we arrived in Kyoto and started sightseeing. And eating. And actually talking to each other without interruption. It was phenomenal.


We visited as many shrines, temples, gardens, and palaces as we could. We also happily stumbled upon a setsubun celebration at a kindergarten taking place right next to the temple. Setsubun gives revelers the chance to dress in funny costumes (the oni devil) and throw food (roasted soybeans)–a recipe for any successful holiday, I think. Setsubun takes place the day before spring according to the lunar calendar–usually February 3 or 4–just as Groundhog Day in the U.S. marks the transition from winter to spring.

The kindergarteners threw their beans at the oni devil while he waved his club in a menacing manner. We stood to the side and watched, then saw him slowly lumber back toward the temple grounds where we stood. Mark and I gathered a few beans from the ground as ammunition, and we took our turn throwing beans at him when he approached us. The children squealed in delight.