Kamakura

Since this was the day for me to present my poster at the meeting, I left the house by 8 am and took the train to Shibuya in order to change to a train that would take me to Yokohama. Between 9 and 10, there was an hour-long window in which to set up one’s poster. I was able to arrive at the convention center shortly after 9, after a 10-minute walk from the nearest train station. The convention center complex was a huge conglomerate which included a high-rise hotel, another building that was filled with meeting rooms, as well as a massive building which contained the large convention floor. As I set up my poster, I noticed that Keisukei was putting his up across the aisle from me. He was attending the meeting all week, while Kiyoe was only planning to stop by on Saturday for the talks in our research area.

After setting up the poster, I had the entire day to wait until it was time for me to stand in front of it and tell people about it, so I headed to Kamakura for the day. Along with Nara and Kyoto, Kamakura had been one of the ancient capitals of Japan. A shogun who had seized power in 1192 moved the seat of government there to be as far away as possible from the Imperial court in Kyoto. There were nearly 85 temples and shrines in Kamakura which dated from this period. The main attraction in town, however, was the Dai Butsu, the Great Outdoor Buddha, the second largest in Japan next to the one in Nara.

I took the train back to the main Yokohama station and switched to a JR train that would take me to Kamakura, just 15 miles further to the south. In order to get to the Buddha, however, I needed to take one more train, an electric trolley, to get to that area of town. Luckily, a lady on the train had asked where I was headed and had pointed out the trolley stop to me once we had arrived in Kamakura. I took this to Hase Station, and then walked up the hill from the station until I reached the Buddha. The weather had turned into the nicest December day so far, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the 60s.

The Buddha was just as impressive as I imagined. If anything, it seemed larger than the one in Nara, since it was not, in this case, eclipsed by the largest wooden structure in the world. One unusual feature of the Kamakura Buddha was that one could go inside the hollow statue, which I, of course, did. After walking around the grounds which surrounded Dai Butsu for a while, I decided to walk to the nearby Hase Kannon Temple.
We had last seen Kannon, the 11-headed Goddess of Mercy, at Sanjusangendo Hall in Kyoto, where there were 1001 bronze statues of her. The 30 foot tall statue of Kannon found at Kamakura happened to be the largest wooden image in Japan. It, along with an identical copy, had been carved from a single block of camphor wood during the 8th century in Hase, near Nara; the latter was kept in Hase and the former was tossed into the sea, so that it could find its own home. It was soon recovered 300 miles to the east but was later tossed back in, when it was perceived that it was bringing the local people bad luck. It reportedly then floated to Kamakura, where it apparently felt more at home since it stopped bringing bad luck. It was placed at the Hase Kannon Temple, overlooking the sea from which it had come.

Perhaps it was its location built onto a hillside near the ocean, but this was one of the most impressive temples I had been to in Japan. The main gate led to a Japanese garden with a large pond in its center, with stairs leading up the hillside to the main temple. After seeing Kannon, one could head back down the stairs, or could continue up the hill, through more gardens, where there was a great ocean view. After climbing around the hillside for a while, I returned to the garden and found a cave entrance on its far end. The cave had a large room complete with stalactites and cave paintings, along with some altars with candles burning in front of them. A low passageway led to a maze of smaller rooms and then eventually connected back to the garden.

After returning to the main Kamakura station using the trolley, I took the JR train north for one stop, to Kita Kamakura. The lady I had met on the train that morning had told me that this stop was a good place to go to reach more of the area temples. I had looked at my guide book of Japan before leaving the apartment that morning, but had tried to commit the layout to memory, since I didn’t want to have to carry the (fairly large) book around with me all day. I started by following some signs to get to Meigetsu-in, a wooded shrine that had another small cave on its grounds, as well as a neat wooden bridge that led across a small stream.

I continued up the hill outside of Meigetsu-in, not really knowing where I was headed. After a long walk through a variety of neighborhoods, I found myself at the entrance to a hiking trail. The trail led in one direction back towards the shrine from which I had come, while the opposite way continued up into the foothills, I therefore chose the latter direction. This trail eventually led me to an overlook that looked down on Kenchoji Temple, which lay in the valley below. A few people were standing at the lookout, apparently having arrived by climbing the steep steps from Kenchoji. During the climb down, I was grateful to be headed down the many steps, rather than up them. After another 15 minutes of walking past statues, colorful banners, stone lanterns, as well as even more caves, I finally reached the temple grounds.

The highlight of Kenchoji was its palace-like living quarters that I was able to walk through, the back of which had a terrace which looked out on a Zen garden with a pond in the middle of it. The whole afternoon had been very peaceful and very enjoyable, taking my time touring the various sites, without worrying about a thing. As I walked back to Kita Kamakura Station, I told myself that I was done seeing temples and should probably head back to Yokohama. . I was getting quite hungry by this time, since it was 1:30, and I hadn’t yet eaten any lunch. I couldn’t resist stopping by one just more temple before I reached the station, however.

I was passing the gate for Engakuji Temple when I convince myself that one more stop couldn’t hurt. Its massive gate was reached by climbing a set of stone steps, while the rest of the grounds continued up the hill and featured the main shrine, a decorative pond, as well as a final set of stairs which led to a small inner shrine. Along the way, I saw a number of women sitting in groups and painting pictures of the grounds, they were apparently members of some sort of art club taking advantage of the beautiful weather. By the time I returned to the train station and arrived back in Yokohama, it was 2:45.

I ate lunch in a Vietnamese restaurant which I found in the train station, enjoying a big bowl of noodles, before returning to the convention center. Since I still had some time to kill before manning my poster at 4:15, I went for a ride on “Clock 21″, the Ferris Wheel we has viewed from afar the night we had met Hitoshi and his family. It lay just across the river from the convention center, as well as from Landmark Tower, the tallest building in Japan. After the ride, which I found considerably less frightening than the wheel at Hep 5- since this one was not mounted on top of a 9-story building, I still had time for a leisurely stroll through Seaside Park, which bordered the convention center, before heading to the poster session.

I stood in front of my poster for an hour while people walked by and read it, then asked me questions about it, if they had any. Either my poster was entirely clear, or a number of people who read it weren’t confident enough to speak English to me, but I did not receive a wealth of questions. A few of the people who stopped by asked whether Kiyoe was at the meeting, and one gave me something that he wanted me to deliver to her. One man who stopped by was particularly nice, so I asked him if he would take my picture in front of the poster. One of the final visitors I had was an expert in ultracentrifugation from our home campus that I had not yet met, even though I had helped train Saiki, his undergraduate student. He listened intently to me explain my poster and had a number of comments, we then arranged to get together in Osaka to talk some more before I left the country.

At 5:15, I was free to wander around and look at some of the hundreds of posters that were being presented that day. Most of those of interest to me were in the same row as my own poster, since they were grouped according to subject material, so I did not end up wandering too far from my own little section of the huge convention center. Of all the area posters, Keisukei’s submission about the mice with Hirschorn Syndrome seemed to be generating the most interest. After another hour passed, it was time to take down the poster and head back to Tokyo. I called the family from the train station and suggested that they meet me in Shibuya so we could go out to dinner together. By 7:45, I was reunited with the others and we all set out for Roppongi.

The family had spent the afternoon shopping in Harajuku, a sort of “Rodeo Drive”, where trendy Tokyo teenagers went to shop. Trudy had found an Oriental Bazaar there, where she was able to pick up a nice platter to give to Kiyoe, as well as a house warming gift for Hitoshi and his family, who would be moving soon into their new place in Yokohama. Brennan had been particularly entertaining, pretending to be a mannequin in a window display which featured dozens of them. They, like me, were tired from walking around and were ready to sit down to dinner.

Roppongi, being the nightlife district of Tokyo most popular with foreigners, was home to a number of Western restaurants, including the Hard Rock Cafe, where we were headed. Tokyo Tower, modeled after the Eiffel Tower, could be clearly seen down the street from this area of town. We had a nice dinner, although, Brennan, who had never been overly impressed by the loud atmosphere in this restaurant chain, was particularly disgusted that we had been seated next to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon” memorabilia, along with another hard rock band’s guitar, on which they had written various profanities. After dinner, we returned to our temporary apartment and went to bed.

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