Kamakura (Part II): Zen Temples, Tempura and Trolleys

Kamakura, Japan has an astounding abundance of lovely sites. We passed so many shrines that it was difficult to stop taking photos and admiring the beauty. There were certainly too many details for one blog post so here is part II…

There are five major shrines in Kamakura, Kencho-ji  was the first and grandest of the city’s zen temples.

Detail of the dragon on the temple ceiling

The beautiful gold decorations on the doors particularly fascinated me.

Meticulous landscaping contributed to the peaceful atmosphere.

Kencho-ji is home to gnarled cypress trees that arose from seeds brought from China by the founding priest 700 years ago.  It is amazing to think these trees were planted before Columbus set sail for America.

No matter how beautiful, man cannot feast his eyes on temples alone, so we found a lovely restaurant. We sat on tatami mats which the children thought was a fun treat.  Aidan loved the tempura and Sydney adored the noodles.

For dessert we tried a local Dorayaki and ice cream treat.

The kids liked the ice cream but were not so convinced that bean-jam tastes as good as chocolate sauce.

Aidan loves Japan and trains are a big part of his fascination. A ride on the trolley was one of his favorite parts of the day trip.

This thrill was only surpassed by the trolley toy we found which runs on  a puzzle track of Kamakura including the famous “Big Buddha”.  Now we have more than just memories to take away with us.  What more could you want in a single day trip?

Kamakura (Part I): Great Buddhas and Sacred Shrines

Kamakura had a brief run of glory from 1192-1333 when Japan’s capital was briefly relocated from Kyoto.  It also happens to be  about an hour train ride from Tokyo where Andy’s work brought us for nine days.  We decided to take a day trip to see the lovely temples, shrines and the most famous sight: the Daibutsu (Great Buddha).

Aidan and the Great Buddha

The children liked the Buddha but they were particularly impressed by his shoes.

Kamakura has a wealth of temples and gardens.  We could only visit a small fraction of what there was to see.  This is the entrance to Hase-dera, a temple around the corner from the Daibutsu which overlooks the bay.

The temple landscaping is beautiful.

Hase-dera is a particularly sacred to mothers as a place to remember miscarried or lost children by placing a jizo statue.

Aidan followed the lead of others and washed the statue.

There was also a small cave that the children felt was a hidden secret tunnel.  They had us walk through there two times.

Ema tablets are placed in Shinto shrines to document wishes and hopes of those who visit.   My hope is that these two stay as happy as they were on this day.

Trains, Tuna and “Two-Tots” in Tokyo

Traveling with children adds many new variables to any journey. Of course there are challenges, but there are also lots of rewards.  Some of my favorite times are when the kids become very excited about the journey.

Aidan has loved the thought of traveling to Japan for months.  He adores sushi and trains.  Japan happens to be famous for both and that is enough for him to consider it the “promised land”!  Andy and I were actually anxious about having the country live up to his high expectations.   Where to begin the adventure?  We chose to head to the place where most sushi starts-the Tsukiji Central Fish Market.

If it lives in the sea it is probably for sale here.

Scallops

Shrimp

Sea Cucumbers

Tuna

They actually don’t just sell tuna sell a multitude of cuts and grades.

The main warehouse market is lively and chaotic.  About 2000 tons of fish and seafood, worth US$18.5 million is sold here daily which amounts to US $5 Billion annually.  There are vehicles buzzing about moving heavy tanks so it is potentially a dangerous place.  Young children in strollers are not allowed so Sydney and I waited outside while Andy and Aidan took a quick look.   Fortunately there is plenty to see in the area surrounding the busier main market.

Baskets of small dried shrimp and krill

Wasabi

We even saw a small parade with beautifully dress women in kimonos…

And the most adorable fisherwoman ever.  She made a nice catch.

All of the touring made us hungry.  We of course had to sample the wares.

After the market tour, we took a train to nearby Ginza.  The subway was exciting in and of itself but when we exited the Sony building there was a surprise which could not have been more perfect for a train-obsessed preschooler.

A whole area of Thomas trains!  We honestly had no idea this was here and there was no better ending for a first morning in Tokyo for Aidan.

He literally jumped up and down and shouted “I Love Japan!”  Yes these are the times that make traveling with children truly special.