The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Monday, October 24, 2005


On Sunday I visited Kamakura with Marcus, the British teacher I was neighbours with last semester. Kamakura was once the capital city of Japan, during the aptly-named Kamakura period which lasted from around 1150 - 1300 (?). This period was a fairly stark one in Japanese history, and it was really marked by the emergence of a new religion that had been imported from China - Zen Buddhism - that would totally change the country over the next 300 years or so.

Kamakura is full of Zen temples, as well as prominent Shinto shrines and other sites of interest. We visited a whole lot of temples but sadly, the English information available on these temples is (a) very sparse and (b) assumes a basic level of ignorance that is pretty appalling. For example, you go into some temple that's 700 years old and has a fascinating history, having been an important place of learning as well as being at the center of a whole slew of political intrigue, etc. etc., and the English guide you receive says, "Welcome to XYZ Temple. Zen Buddhism is part of Japan's cultural heritage. This temple has many beautiful gardens and wooden buildings which you can enjoy. Have a nice day." Sigh... you really have to research this stuff on your own if you are interested in it, because even the average Japanese person no longer knows the significance of most of these places.

One of the big attractions of Kamakura is a giant Buddha. It's actually kind of a letdown, since it's not particularly huge, and it doesn't even transform into a fighter jet or giant robot. Just kidding. But in fact, it's not much larger than the giant Buddha statue that we had on Ikitsuki, which I suppose should be taken to mean that Ikitsuki is more interesting than I gave it credit for, rather than vice versa... But the impressive thing about the statue is that it was originally built in 1252 or something (wow!) but a tidal wave washed it away in 1498 (double wow!) and it was rebuilt and has since survived any number of natural disasters. Here's a picture of me picking its nose.


At 10:11 PM, Blogger Zambo said...

Hey buddy.

I know it's a bad sign to mention the weather, but it's been total shit here these days...So cold and so wet...Reminds me of my first wife...but wet...I kid, of course...

It seems like you're taking in the culture, etc. there...Are you thinking about researching the sites and offering sign verbage for English speaking tourists?

That could be a good opportunity for you to learn stuff and to make some extra cash...or not...

So...that's all I've got...

Good day and good luck.

Your Pal,



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