Monday, September 22, 2008

Leif - Great Buddha - Kamakura, Japan - Age 6

We visited many cultural and historic sites in Japan, each colorful and fascinating. The city of Kamakura has many temples, parks, and interesting shops, and I visited there many times with my Japanese friends. As a family, I only remember going once, and Peter Anthony wasn't with us. I can no longer remember why.

So Peter W, Leif and I visited several places in Kamakura including the Kotoku-in Temple where the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) is located.I hadn't expected a six-year-old to be that interested, but Leif seemed to find the statue, as well as the large metal lanterns absorbing.

This statue of Buddha is the second largest one in Japan. The largest one is at Nara, and our family (including Peter Anthony) visited that one, too.

The one at Kamakura was originally inside a wooden temple, but that was washed away in the tsunami of 20 September 1498. The larger Buddha at Nara is still inside the temple.

To get to Kamakura, we had to take the train and change several times. While it was possible to drive, the roads were small and very congested, and the trip could end up taking hours. Besides, the whole family thought riding the trains was a much better adventure.

I remember that on this trip to Kamakura, we got hungry and passed a bakery. We decided to get a treat. This was another adventure in Japan, which has excellent bakeries, but unless you can read the Katakana (syllabary used for foreign words in Japan), you may be in for a big surprise when you order something. What appears to be a jelly doughnut might be filled with red bean paste or curry, for instance.

Since I had learned to read Katakana, it was my job to read the labels in the cases, of anything someone else in the family thought they might like to get. That day, I think Leif chose a pastry filled with some kind of curry.

Since we lived in an American Army housing area, going out the gate into the Japanese milieu was always fun, a time for discovery -- and a time to hope we didn't get lost, as there was no English signage in most places we went.

1 comment:

  1. Taking a week or two to learn kana is such a simple thing that pays off so valuably in the long run. People may not realize just how much "Japanese" is really English encoded into kana. Familiarity puts a lot of signs and everyday verbiage in reach.

    But one must be cautious, as you point out. Once, after a long day of wandering around, I wearily went into a Lotteria and jabbed my finger toward their picture menu at an image of a frosty, bubbling, iced dark drink. Reading the kana below, I read "a .. i .. su .. ko .." and then stopped. I'd read enough. It was obviously "Iced Coke" or "Iced Cola", which is what I wanted. I was hot and sweating, and looking forward to the Coke.

    Insert straw; prepare to be refreshed.

    I nearly spewed the iced coffee half-way across the room, which wouldn't be a very Japanese thing to do at all. Never made that mistake again.