Archive for June 10, 2017

a hopeful trip to hasedera (attempt #1): too late for the hydrangea walk :-(   9 comments

Saturday, June 10: After leaving Enoshima at 3:30, I debate whether I should try to go to Kamakura’s Hasedera Temple to see the hydrangea.  I’m so close, or so I think, that I should be able to squeeze it in while I’m here in the south of Kamakura.  I’m already tired from my walk all around Enoshima, but, in a foolhardy last-minute decision, I decide I’ll “hop” on the Enoden Line and go for it.

The Enoden, or Enoshima Electric Railway, is a 10km long private railway that connects Kamakura Station in Kamakura with Fujisawa Station.  The line is single-track; however, five of the route’s fifteen stations are equipped with passing loops, allowing for bi-directional traffic. Stations en route include Hase, the stop closest to Kōtoku-in (高徳院), the temple with the Great Buddha, or the Daibutsu (大仏).  It’s also very close to Hasedera Temple, known for its eleven-headed Hase Kannon Buddhist statue and its abundance of hydrangea in June.

Enoshima Station on the Enoden Line

Little do I know how much of a hassle it will be taking the Enoden Line.  Though it is considered a charming mode of transportation, it is not so charming when hordes of people are trying to take it. The trains run infrequently, have a small number of cars, and run on a single track line.  All of these factors, combined with huge crowds attempting to visit the hydrangea in Kamakura, make it frustrating and claustrophobic.  Crowds are packed on the platform and when the train comes, people pack into the trains so tightly, it is difficult to move or breathe. I am the last to squeeze onto the train and my nose is almost caught by the closing doors!  The people standing behind me are left on the platform to wait for another train. Only a smattering of those people will be able to get on the next train.

I arrive at Hasedera after 4:15, which is rather short-sighted as most Buddhist temples close at 4:30 or 5:00.  I don’t know when I first enter the temple grounds that there is a special ticket one has to get to do the “hydrangea walk.” I meander around the grounds, admiring the few hydrangea near the bottom of the hill, along with the pretty ponds and gardens.

water garden at hasedera

water garden at hasedera

hasedera gardens

a stone lantern and pond at Hasedera

Hydrangea at Hasedera

figures at Hasedera

iris blooming at Hasedera

After wandering around the ground level gardens for a while, I follow some people up the steps to the small Jizo-do Hall. This small building enshrines Fukujyu Jizo. Here, visitors can pray for easy childbirth and prosperity.  Surrounding the hall are thousands of little Jizo statues standing in long rows.  The statues are there to comfort the souls of miscarried and deceased children. Jizo is a Buddhist saint who saves people and is believed to protect children.

little shrine

small Jizō statues at Hasedera

small Jizō statues at Hasedera

small Jizō statues at Hasedera

incense burner at Hasedera

After admiring all the Jizo, I continue up the steps until I come to the Kannon-do Hall. The statue of Hase Kannon is housed here.  It is 9.18 meters (30.1 ft.) tall and is one of the largest wooden Buddhist statues in Japan.  It has eleven heads in addition to its main one: three on the front, the right, the left, one at the top and another on the back.  Each face has a different expression, signifying that the Kannon listens to the wishes of all types of people and leads them away from distress.

According to legend, in 721 AD, the pious monk Tokudo Shonin discovered a sacred large camphor tree near the village of Hase in the Nara region. He commissioned two sculptors to carve two eleven-headed Kannon statues. The statue carved from the lower part of the trunk was enshrined in Hasedera Temple in Nara, and the statue from the upper half was thrown into the sea with a prayer that it would reappear to save the people.

Fifteen years later, on the night of 18 June 736, it washed ashore at the Nagai Beach on the Miura Peninsula not far from Kamakura, sending out rays of light in the process. The statue was then brought to Kamakura and a temple was constructed to honor it.

Kannon-dō (Main hall) at Hasedera

Although Kannon is usually described in English as “the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy,” strictly speaking it is neither masculine or feminine.  Kannon is a future Buddha, destined for enlightenment, who has vowed to save all sensitive beings and represents compassion, mercy and love.  Sadly, no photography is allowed inside the hall.

Next to Kannon-do is Amida-do Hall, where the golden seated statue of Amida Nyorai, one of Kamakura’s six principal statues of Amida Buddha is enshrined.

Amida-do Hall

The Amida statue is 2.8 meters (9.2 feet) in height, not including its large halo.  According to legend, in 1194, Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan, commissioned the statue for warding off evil.  In later years, people came to believe it would expel evil spirits and offer protection against misfortune.

Amida Nyorai

To the right of Amida-do, there is a massive bronze bell.  The Shoro Belfry was constructed in 1955 and the current bell was cast in 1984.  The original bell, which was cast in 1264 (currently exhibited in the museum), is the oldest artifact where the title of Hasedera can be recognized.  It is the third oldest bell among Kamakura’s temples.

Following the Buddhist tradition, the bell is rung 108 times around midnight on New Year’s Eve to dispel the 108 sufferings of humanity.  This ritual is called Joya no Kane.

bell tower

The enshrined deity at Inari-Sha (Kakigara Inari) was initially dedicated to “Kojin” (god of the cooking stove and fire). The shrine was rebranded as Inari-sha in later years.  According to the legend surrounding the history of the Kannon statue, it appeared floating on the sea, drifting ashore with the guidance of “kakigara” (oyster shells) attached to the statue. This Inari-sha was established to enshrine the Kakigara and to receive the divine guidance of Kannon.

Inari-sha (Kakigara Inari)

oyster shell wishes

holy place

ema at Hasedera

I see a sign for Ajisai, which means hydrangea in English, to the left side of Kannon-do.  The sign tells something in Japanese about the Ajisai Garden, which has around 2,500 hydrangea of 40 different species planted on its grounds. On the steps of Kannon-do, I see people lounging around on the steps. It’s surprising, as this is rarely seen at Buddhist temples. In a small courtyard, a large crowd stands in a cordoned queue.

I try to walk into the entrance to join the queue, but the man there asks for my numbered ticket.  I don’t have a numbered ticket.  He says if I entered Hasedera after 4:00, it was too late to get a numbered ticket, and thus it is impossible to go on the hydrangea walk today.

Later, I realize that those people lounging on the steps were waiting for their number to be called for the Ajisai.

I have come all this way to be met with disappointment, as far as the hydrangea are concerned.  Still, Hasedera is a magnificent temple, so I try to make the best of it despite being tired from walking all around Enoshima earlier today.  At this point, I determine that I will come back another day; after all, I still have yet to see the Daibutsu, the Big Buddha, just a 5-minute walk from Hasedera.  I will have to arrive here earlier in order to get in the queue for the hydrangea walk.

This is the problem with being a foreigner in Japan, or in any country for that matter.  Since we don’t know the language, we’re often out of the loop in matters such as these.  For example, I came all this way without knowing that I had to get a timed ticket for the hydrangea walk.  I thought I could just go to Hasedera and walk around the grounds and see the hydrangea.

Kannon-dō (Main hall) at Hasedera

Near the courtyard are some adorable Bussokuseki, footprints of the Gautama Buddha. There are two forms: natural, as found in stone or rock, and those made artificially.  These are floating in a stone bowl.

Buddha’s footprints

garden of delight

Buddha’s footprints

Hasedera

In the Kyozo (space for storing Buddhist scriptures), there is a rotary bookshelf called a Rinzo. It is believed that when you rotate the Rinzo once, you will receive the same virtue as when you recite the complete scriptures. There are also eighteen prayer wheels called Mani-guruma which you can turn to receive virtue such as that from the Rinzo.

Kyozo

For people like me who can’t walk up the hill for the hydrangea walk, we can observe the people walking up the hill from a bamboo grove near the Kyozo.

bamboo grove at Hasedera

mini garden at Hasedera

From below, we can see the people who were fortunate enough to go on the hydrangea walk today.  It seems the hydrangea have some blooming ahead, so I’m sure I will see them one of the weekends in June.

the hill of hydrangeas – off limits today 😦

stone lantern

On the far side of the upper level is an observation platform overlooking the Yuigahama and Zaimokuza Beaches as well as Sagami Bay with the Sushi Marina and the Miura Peninsula in the distance. Luckily it’s a clear day today, so I have a fantastic view.

view of Sagami Bay from Hasedera

view from Hasedera

Kannon-dō (Main hall)

I head back down the steps and walk back through the pretty gardens to get to the exit.

carp pond

pathway

pond at Hasedera

pond at Hasedera

Before I leave, I take a slight detour to visit the Benten-kutsu Cave, where Benzaiten, the Goddess of water and wealth, and her followers of Sixteen Children are chiseled out of the rock walls. Benzaiten is the only female among the Seven Japanese Gods of Fortune.

little Buddha

torii leading to the cave, called benten kutsu (Benzaiten Grotto)

Benzaiten Grotto

ema at Benzaiten Grotto

pond at Hasedera

gardens at Hasedera

small shrine at Hasedera

By the time I leave Hasedera, it’s 5:20. As I wander down the main street, I find a small temple tucked into a short path off the street.  Here, I find some gorgeous hydrangea.

hydrangeas

rich blooms

hydrangeas

pretty in pink

white blooms

leafy wonders

hydrangea heaven

 

The main street where Hasedera sits also leads to the Big Buddha, but I know the temple will be closed by this time, so I don’t bother.  I have a plan to walk the Daibutsu hiking trail from Kita-Kamakura one day soon, ending up at the Big Buddha.  I will try to do the whole hike one day in June: the Daibutsu trail leading to the Big Buddha and then a return to Hasedera for the hydrangea walk.

On the street back to Hase Station, I stop in at some souvenir shops with some interesting flip-flops and seashell wind chimes.

fish flip flops

Japanese themed flip flops

sea shells wind chimes

Finally, I’m back at the Enoden Line, where the trains are so packed, I can’t even make it on to the first train that stops and I have to wait another 10 minutes or so for the next train.  At that time, I pack onto the train with hundreds of mainly Japanese, and some foreign, tourists. It’s amazing to me how the Japanese never seem to be flustered by anything. Despite frustrations and inconveniences, long queues, crowds, heat and humidity, they simply soldier through.  My students tell me most Japanese people don’t have any religion, yet I see Japanese people actively worshipping at every Buddhist temple and I see it in their acceptance of life as it is; as this is a core Buddhist teaching, I find it hard to believe they don’t have any religion or faith.

the Enoden Line

All information about Hasedera is from an English brochure created by Hasedera Temple (Hase Kannon).

Total steps today: 21,082 (8.93 miles).  Thank goodness the weather wasn’t too hot and there was a nice strong wind!

a june day on the tiny island of enoshima   2 comments

Saturday, June 10: Enoshima (江の島) is a small offshore island, about 4km in circumference, at the mouth of the Katase River, which flows into the Sagami Bay of Kanagawa Prefecture.  I take a trip down to the island this Saturday morning and end up at the bright red Enoshima Station.

Enoshima Station

Katase, the gateway city to Enoshima, is linked to the island by the 600-meter-long Enoshima Benten-bashi Bridge.  On another bridge, I get a view inland to Katase.

Inland waterway at Enoshima

After stopping by Tourist Information, I walk across the Enoshima Benten-bashi Bridge to the busy island.  The first wooden bridge to Enoshima was built in 1891.  Before then, when the tide was high, visitors rode on tiny boats or piggybacked on someone’s shoulders to travel between Katase Beach and Enoshima Island.  The vehicle bridge was built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

A lot of water activities are going on from jet skiing to sailing to windsurfing.

Enoshima Shrine Memorial

Enoshima Benten-bashi

The Enoshima Island Spa looks a bit like an Italian villa.  A show-off guy on a jet ski roars around doing figure-eights around the anchored jet skis.

jet skis and Enoshima Island Spa

I don’t know how this has happened, but I have arrived here with hardly any money, so I ask someone at Tourist Information on this side of the bridge about a Japan Post ATM; he directs me under the Bronze Torii Gate and up the main pedestrian walkway. I find the ATM and get some money.  Now I can look for something to eat. 🙂

The Bronze Torii Gate at the entrance to Enoshima was rebuilt in 1821;  it is a cultural asset of Fujisawa City.  The plaque atop the gate has the name of the main deity: “Enoshima Daimyojin.” After passing through the torii gate, the bustling approach to the shrine is packed with marine product shops, souvenir shops, inns, and traditional restaurants. The width of the street has not changed over the years.

Bronze Torii Gate

I see people walking around nibbling on giant sheets, made of what looks like heavy-duty cardboard, with some kind of fish baked into them. They’re bizarre looking, and I wonder what on earth they are.  Later I find they are a type of rice cracker, Maruyaki Takosenbei, made using an entire octopus.

Bronze Torii Gate

Hydrangea season is upon us now that it’s June, so I’m happy to find a couple of the beautiful blooms here on Enoshima.

hydrangea

Anywhere you go in Japan, you can find a little shrine of some kind tucked away into a small alcove.

small shrine

I’m always drawn to wind chimes, especially colorful ones.

wind chimes

There are three different shrines on Enoshima that are collectively known as Enoshima Shrine. They are all dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten, the island’s patron goddess all things that flow: words, eloquence, good fortune, wealth, music, and knowledge.  In the popular imagination she is the goddess of love.

According to Japanese mythology, Benzaiten created Enoshima Island as part of her battle with a troublesome sea dragon.

Zuishinmon

ceiling

part of Enoshima Shrine

Enoshima Shrine (Hetsunomiya) actually consists of three separate shrine pavilions: Hetsunomiya, Nakatsunomiya, and Okutsunomiya.  Each one is dedicated to a different goddess of the sea.  The main pavilion, Hetsunomiya, enshrines Tagitsuhimenomikoto.  The majestic worship hall was moved to the island by the Buddhist monk Ryoshin in 1206.  The present building was remodeled in 1976.

Enoshima Shrine (Hetsunomiya)

The Enoshima Benzaiten is one of three major Benzaiten shrines in Japan; the others are Hiroshima’s Miyajima, and Chikubushima in Shiga. Benzaiten is also popular as the only female among the Shichifukujin (Seven Gods of Good Fortune).  People in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) enshrined the eight-armed Benzaiten to pray for victims in battle. The character of Benzaiten worship later changed, and Edo era believers sought the two-armed (naked) Benzaiten’s help to improve their artistic and musical skills.

I pay an admission fee to go in to the Hoanden, or Octagonal Hall for the Statues: Hadaka (Naked) Benzaiten and Happi Benzaiten (Eight-armed Benzaiten). However, I’m not allowed to take pictures of the sacred statues, so I’ve included the sign with pictures below.

Hoanden (Octagonal Hall for the Statues)

Happi Benzaiten (Eight-armed Benzaiten) & Hakada (Naked) Benzaiten

Hoanden (Octagonal Hall for the Statues)

Enoshima Shrine offers pink ema with hearts on them, popular among couples.

Ema at Enoshima Shrine

Ema at Enoshima Shrine

Ema at Enoshima Shrine

View of Enoshima Benten-bashi from Enoshima Shrine

artistic rendering of Enoshima

As I climb up the rocky outcrop that is Enoshima, I catch a fabulous view to the north of Enoshima Yacht Harbor and the Enoshima Shonan Yacht Club House, along with the mainland of Katase across Shonan Harbor.

view of Enoshima Yacht Harbor

view of Enoshima Yacht Harbor

Enoshima Shrine (Nakatsunomiya) was built by Jikaku Daishi in 853 to worship the deity Ichikishimahimenomikoto.  The present shrine pavilion was rebuilt in 1689 and then remodeled again in September 1996. In 2011, new items enhancing “the shrine’s magnificence” were added: the carved transom fences on both sides of the hall which depict the four seasons, and the “Suikinkutsu” which makes a mysterious sound when water drips into it.

Enoshima Shrine (Nakatsunomiya)

Enoshima Shrine (Nakatsunomiya)

hydrangea heaven

hydrangea

The Enoshima Sea Candle is 60 meters (196.2 ft) high and 119.6 meters above sea level.  I don’t go up into the lighthouse observation tower today because it’s hazy and partly cloudy so I doubt I’d be able to the see the views of Mt. Fuji to the west, the Miura Peninsula to the east, or Oshima Island to the south.

Onetime Sea Candle (Lighthouse Observation Tower)

Looking out over the harbor from Enoshima Island, I can see a sailing regatta. Apparently, Enoshima will be the sailing and surfing venue for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

view from Enoshima

The branch temple of Enoshima Daishi was established by the Shingon Buddhist temple Saifukuji in Kagoshima in 1993.  A pair of red-faced Akafudo statues stand fiercely at the entrance.

red character at Enoshima Daishi

Enoshima Daishi

Figure at Enoshima Daishi

flowers at Enoshima Daishi

Statue at Enoshima Daishi

I am inspired by my Japanese Instagram friend Yukie, who adores Portugal and is always posting pictures of laundry throughout that country, to take photos of this laundry blowing in the strong wind near Enoshima Daishi.

laundry on the balcony

Yama Futatsu (Ridge between the Island’s two highlands)

Looking down over the south coast of the island, I can see sailboats in the distance.

Yama Futatsu with sailing regatta in the distance

Shrine along the way

stone lantern and hydrangea

Atop a “dragon cave” on Enoshima is a fierce-looking dragon.  The dragon is the stuff of legend on Enoshima.

According to Wikipedia:

The Enoshima Engi (江嶋縁起) is a history of the temples and shrines on the island.  It was written in Chinese, the scholarly language of the time, by the Japanese Buddhist monk Kōkei in 1047 AD.  The Enoshima Engi consists of two parts. The first tells the story of the tribulations of prehistoric villagers who lived in the vicinity of  Enoshima. The villagers were plagued for a period of a thousand-some years by a destructive, five-headed dragon in a nearby lake. Aware of their suffering, on May 31, 552 AD, the Goddess Benzaiten caused the island of Enoshima to arise from the bottom of the bay to serve as her abode. She then descended onto the island amidst a series of spectacular terrestrial and aerial phenomena. The dragon fell in love with the beautiful goddess and asked her to be his consort. Benzaiten, who was widely known for her persuasive eloquence, rejected the dragon’s proposal and made it understand that it had been doing wrong by plaguing the villagers. Ashamed, the dragon promised to cease its wrongdoing. It then faced south (devotedly facing the island where Benzaiten lived) and changed into a hill. To this day, the hill is known as Dragon’s-Mouth Hill.

fierce dragon

inner shrine

shrine at Enoshima

manhole cover at Enoshima

The wind is blowing fiercely today and, as I’m walking up a sandy path, I’m pelleted by stinging sand.  I feel like I’m in the midst of a desert sandstorm.  When I come to a high clearing, I find Koibito no Oka, the Love Bell, sitting pretty with a good view of Sagami Bay. It is customary for couples to ring the bell together for good luck in romance. It’s also a tradition for couples to write a message on a lock and leave it hanging at the site.

locks overlooking the sea

I stop at a restaurant overlooking the south side of the island. I’d like to sit at a window seat in open air, but the wind is blowing so fiercely that the restaurant has closed all the windows on the balcony and is not seating anyone out there.  So I sit inside and order my favorite go-to meal of shrimp tempura with some accompaniments.

a tempura lunch

While going down the stairs to the southern coast, there are some stone monuments on the landing overlooking the Chigogafuchi Abyss.  The second one from the right has a haiku poem by the famous poet Matsuo Basho (Edo period).  Hattori Nankaku is famous for his verses.  He was born in Kyoto and studied under Ogyu Sorai in Edo.

Monuments overlooking Chigogafuchi Abyss

walking down to the sea

The name “Chigogafuchi Abyss” comes from the tragic tale of a chigo (a young Buddhist page) at the Sojoin Temple in Kamakura.  His name was Shiragiku and he killed himself by jumping into the deep water here.

The wind is so headstrong here that the waves are hurling themselves over the rocks and a man is shouting things I don’t understand through a megaphone.  The path shown in the photo below is closed off; I’m disappointed as I hoped to walk along the rocky coast here.  It turns out the man is trying to round-up all the people on the rocks and have them move to higher ground.  When he finally succeeds, he cordons off the area and we have no choice but to stand and observe the unruly sea from above.

the restless sea

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

I love watching the roiling sea while the wind whips my hair all about.  I love windy days!!

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

After enjoying the crazy antics of the waves against the rocks, I climb the steep stairs back to the top of the island.

climbing the long steps up again

hydrangeas at Enoshima

all abloom

On the way down from the top, I catch another view of the Enoshima Yacht Harbor and the Enoshima Shonan Yacht Club House.

View of Enoshima Yacht Harbor

Enoshima Yacht Harbor

another shrine on Enoshima

Olympic Memorial Fountain

Sagami Bay from the beach at Enoshima

I finish my walk around Enoshima and though it’s been a long day, I decide I should take the Enoden train to visit Hasadera, a temple that is known for its fabulous hydrangea walk.  As it’s the season for hydrangea, I figure I should go since the temple is not that far away.  Little do I know the hassles I will encounter, and that I will have to visit Hasadera three times to finally be able to do the hydrangea walk!

Most of the information in this blog post, unless otherwise indicated, is from an excellent tourist brochure, the “Enoshima Illustrated Map,” created by the Fujisawa City Tourist Center: Katase Enoshima Tourist Information Center.

 

%d bloggers like this: