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Kamakura in a Word: Green

This is the last in my unofficial Golden Week Adventure Series (#GW2018? Anyone?).
sort of got lostwalked amongst some historyand felt very, very small.

For the last day of Golden Week I returned to someplace I'd already been before: Kamakura. I was last there in January of 2011 (also with Troy, come to think of it--I'm sure there's an old blog post about the experience buried in the archives somewhere) but was excited to return with fresh eyes and new perspectives.

Kamakura is perhaps best known, nowadays, for its own Daibutsu, albeit one that is minuscule in scale compared to the one at Ushiku. Since Troy and I visited that statue the last time, we elected to see some of Kamakura's other sites, taking advantage of the weather to walk the streets of the city and truly get a feel for its flavor.

Our first stop was Hokokuji Temple, a zen temple built in 1334 and known for its bamboo garden, where there are apparently over 2,000 shoots!





As you walked along the pat…
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The Ushiku Daibutsu Takes Pure Land Buddhism to New Heights

Japan has a quite a few "giant" things: giant cotton candygiant ramenand a giant rice scoop. It also has a giant Buddha. In fact, it has multiple giant Buddhas--and while the daibutsu at Todaiji Temple and in Kamakura are arguably more famous, the Ushiku Daibutsu, the third-tallest statue in the world, dwarfs them all. 

The Ushiku Daibutsu is in (surprise) Ushiku, a city in Ibaraki Prefecture, which is to the northeast of Tokyo. It sort of...sits in the middle of a vaguely themepark-like garden where, in addition to the Daibutsu, is a flower garden, some symbolic water features, and a....petting zoo?

Even if you're just there for the Buddha, however, it's worth the trek.

It's impossible to overemphasize how simply MASSIVE this statue, at 120 meters (393 feet) tall, feels. You approach it from quite a ways away and, as you get closer to its base, it truly seems to loom over and glare down at you. One of the factoids that really stuck with me from a Japanese a…

Cowabunga! Kawagoe!

It surprises me sometimes how we miss the things closest to us. 
When I was here for six months in high school I lived in Sayama-shi, in Saitama Prefecture. Every day I rode the Seibu-Shinjuku Line to and from school, and I became fairly familiar with the various stops, even the ones I never had occasion to go to, such as Hon-Kawagoe. So I was pleasantly surprised (although perhaps I shouldn't have been) that when heading to Kawagoe I would, in fact, be heading to the Hon-Kawagoe area. Go figure, but, it was slightly nostalgic for me--I don't exactly have much reason to head to Saitama on a day to day basis anymore. 
Kawagoe is also known as "Little Edo" for the number of Edo Period (1603-1868) buildings that have been preserved, lining several of the main streets. Troy and I arrived during their Spring Festival, so there were plenty of koinobori, or carp streamers, hung in honor of Children's Day, which falls on May 5th. The koi are supposed to represent vitali…

A Golden Week Adventure to Nikko: The Devil's in the Details

All hail Japan's ridiculous number (17) of national holidays. 
Golden Week (GW)--the roughly week-long period of sequential national holidays from April 29 to early May-- is a popular (and expensive; I wouldn't recommend timing your trip to Japan for this particular week) time to travel in Japan, but it does give you a large chunk of guilt-free time to explore the country. For me it was just an excellent perk of working here--a week of days off that I didn't have to spend any PTO to get-- but I know that for some Japanese employees this is one of their only vacation periods throughout the year. Train tickets, hotels, and other activities that require pre-purchased tickets for GW sell out well in advance, their prices unsurprisingly jacked-up for the occasion. 
While it would have been nice to make a trek to Hokkaido or Kyushu, both of which are rather far-afield of Tokyo, I didn't quite have the foresight (or funding, if I'm being honest) for an excursion of that …