Thursday, January 31, 2013

Kamakura Diabutsu

Japan is a small country, it’s true.  Despite this, the land of the rising sun offers a seemingly unlimited amount of interesting things to capture the attention of visitors.  Living so close to Tokyo, we can always find something to spark our interest and prompt us to explore. 

One of the places we had been meaning to get too for a while was Kamakura.  Just south of Tokyo, it only takes about two hours to get there from west Saitama.  It is a popular day trip outside of Tokyo for visitors to Japan.

The most famous attraction of Kamakura is the enormous Buddha statue-the Daibutsa (big Buddha).  It was built around nearly 800 years ago and has withstood multiple natural and human made disasters including a tsunami (which swept away it’s original building enclosure), earth quakes, and a many wars.

The Buddha sits on its reconstructed plinth, raising it several feet off the ground.  The impressive size is emphasized through the solemn meditative expression of the Diabutsu.  It is truly a magnificent image to behold.    

For a very small fee, we were able to go up inside the Buddha.  This offered a fascinating glimpse into how it was constructed. 

 More on Kamakura coming soon!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Holidays in Japan

The flurry of the holidays has simmered back down into the regular routine of life.  Our third year being away from home from the holidays.  We always miss our families and friends during this time even more acutely than usual. 

Our first year away we stayed in Japan for the holidays.  It was Karl’s and my first Christmas as a married couple.  We made lots of cookies, sat under our kotatsu, and watched all the Christmas classics. 

Our second year away, we celebrated the holiday season in India.  That was an incredible experience I will not soon forget. 

Our third year away, we had company.  And not just any company-one of my younger sisters made the journey to Japan to visit us during our holiday vacation.  We were delighted to share our Japanese life with her.  

Also-I got a really cute holiday manicure.  Just for fun.  

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Thursday, January 10, 2013


If you ever find yourself in Japan, I have one piece of advice for you (well, several, actually…but I’ll address those later):

Go to see a sumo tournament live.

A few months ago I had to plead total ignorance regarding sumo.  Big fat guys who “wrestle”…right?

Well, I still don’t know too much about it, but I know more now than I did then.  A few times a year, sumo tournaments are held.  We were fortunate enough to be able to attend the September tournament last year in Tokyo. 

It was fascinating.  

Processing in for the beginning ceremony.

 Two wrestles face each other in the ring.  There are two ways to win a round:  Push your opponent outside of the ring, or knock your opponent down. 

A close call...
The judges discussing the decision.
A round begins when the two wrestles throw salt in the ring to protect themselves from injury.  They squat, opposite each other.  A referee stands between the wrestles, just inside the ring.  When both wrestles are ready, they lean forward and put their fists to the ground.  This can take a long while to lead up too-most wrestlers use the entire four minute limit allowed.  From what I could gather, the suspense leading up to the actual wrestling was just as important and the wrestling itself.  

If you are really interested in sumo, check out this website.  

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Catching Up

The holidays are always a whirlwind of activities.  As soon as November came last fall, we seemed to be busy every waking moment.  Now that we’ve turned the corner into the new year, I have finally found my way back to blogging. 

Before sharing my holiday activities, I need to catch up on the rest of rest summer.  (Yikes-it really has been awhile!)

One of our final weekends last August studying Japanese in Okazaki was busy exploring some special shrines, hiking some mountain trials, and exploring an old castle. 

We began with the shrines. 

Fertility is a celebrated aspect of life here in Japan.  In addition to the special shrines, there are also annual festivals held to specifically celebrate fertility.  During our visits to these two shrines-one dedicated to each sex-we witnessed several families with new born babies, likely giving thanks for the birth of their healthy child. (I am afraid I do not recall either of the temples names we visited.)

The shrine dedicated to male fertility.

Shrine dedicated to female fertility. 
Pregnant women are supposed to crawl through.  If they make it, they will have an easy birth.

The castle we toured-Inuyama Castle-we discovered is the oldest standing castle in Japan.  It was built in 1537 (reconstructed in the 1960’s). 

After refreshing ourselves with some ice cream, we were ready for a hike.  On our way to the trailhead, we stopped to view some lovely waterfalls.  The two waterfalls are said to be a couple-one male, one female.  One of the waterfalls in quite loud while the other is quite quiet.  It’s up to you to decide which is which. 

Our hike was beautiful.  It left me longing for more time in the mountains. 

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