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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Visiting the ancient city of Kamakura

My friend, Kelly (she's from Taiwan), had been preparing to do a very small-scaled short film, and had enlisted Kong's help to shoot it.

She had wanted to shoot her place in a traditional Japanese house, and so her friend Anna, offered to let Kelly use her great-grandmother's house in Kamakura.

Yesterday, Kong and Kelly decided to go to Kamakura to look at Anna's house.

I decided to tag along because I've never been to Kamakura before.

We arrived in the morning at 10 to meet up with Anna. Kelly's the one with a white cap and Anna's the one on the phone.

Arriving at Kamakura

That's the Kamakura station.

Kamakura Station

We started walking to Anna's great grandmother's house.

Street of Kamakura

I think it was a 10-15 minute walk before we reached the house. Anna's great grandmother is already 100 years old and she had been living by herself in this house most of the time. The house had been sold to someone else recently, but the new tenants haven't move in.

Outside Anna's great grandmother's house

As I entered the place, I cannot help but think of the very fine anime film, SUMMER WARS, by Mamoru Osoda, when Kenji followed Natsuki back to her 90-year-old great-grandmother's place.

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Garden of old Japanese house

Traditional Japanese house

Anna paid her respects to her great grandfather.

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Kong, Kelly and Anna look at the garden

Kong and Kelly examining photos

Japanese bamboo fountain (Shishi-Odoshi)

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Kelly examines the scenery

Anna's great grandmother's bedroom.

Anna's great grandma's room

She was a painter and also a fashion designer.

Photos of her greatgrandma and her paintings too

Anna told me that this is a photo of her great grandmother, and Giorgio Armani.

Anna's great grandma with Giorgio Armani

Kelly and Anna in the shadows

As Kong and Kelly discussed the film, and the storyboards, I rested here, there was a heater underneath the table.

There's a heater underneath the table

We then headed off for lunch.

Returning to Kamakura streets


I opted for some curry.

Outside a curry restaurant

Curry katsu rice

Anna had mentioned that Kamakura is known more for its confectionery and desserts, so it wasn't so surprising that the curry was a little sweeter than usual.

I decided to sample some of the sweet stuff in Kamakura.

Kamakura shopping town

That's a dango. It's some sort of rice dumpling, covered in red bean paste (there are different flavours to choose from)

Eating some dango

And these were Kelly and my cups of amazake. It's a traditional sweet, low-alcoholic Japanese drink made from fermented rice.


Amazake street vendor

We headed to the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, the most important shrine in Kamakura. It was a Buddhist temple and was far larger than it is today. Until the '1868 Shinto And Buddhism separation order', when the Meiji government, for political reasons, decided not to mix Buddhism and Shinto, many Buddhist-related buildings in Tsurugaoka were destroyed.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

Little child with hamaya

People walking up the stairs of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu

We went to check our fortunes by doing the omikuji.

Anna got a 'kyo' (curse/ bad luck).

Anna got a 'kyo' (curse/ bad luck) on her omikuji

Kong got a 'dai-kyo' (great curse/ even worse luck)

Because they both got bad predictions, they had to tie the strips of omikuji on a wall of metal wires.

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I got a 'kichi' (blessing/ good luck). So it was fine for me to keep it in my wallet.

i got a 'kichi' (blessing)

I liked the courtyard of the shrine.

Courtyard at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

Blue skies at the courtyard of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

Shy sun hiding behind the cloud

We then went to the Kotoku-in to visit the iconic Great Buddha of Kamakura. But not before we had some more dango outside the temple.

Anna eats dango again

And there it was, the famous Kamakura Great Buddha. It dates from 1252 and was built inside a wooden temple before the building was washed away by a tsunami in 1498. The statue remained.

The famous Kamakura Great Buddha

The Great Buddha and me

Anna thought the Buddha looked a little sad.

Anna and the Great Buddha

Kelly agreed.

Kelly and the Great Buddha

The statue, to my surprise, was hollow. And for 20 yen, we could explore its interior.

going into the interior of the Great Buddha

Plaque in Great Buddha's interior

The interior of the Great Buddha

Awed by the Great Buddha's interior

These girls were wearing T-shirts with the word 'Kamakura' on them.

3 girls in Kamakura T-shirts poses with Great Buddha

The sun was setting.

Great Buddha of Kamakura as the sun is setting

Great Buddha

Great Buddha in the evening

I just found out that Yasunari Kawabata, the Nobel Prize-winning author whose works had inspired my short films, LOVE SUICIDES, KINGYO and the upcoming WHITE FLOWER, used to stay in Kamakura. In fact, he actually died in Kamakura and was buried here too (many famous Japanese people were buried in Kamakura, including film directors Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu).

His old house was pretty near the Big Buddha, so I decided to go there. But not before getting some taiyaki first.

Eating Taiyaki

Taiyaki shop

I wondered whether it was better to eat from the head first, or the tail first. Eating the head would kill the fish immediately so that it wouldn't have to suffer as you consume the rest of it. Eating from its tail seemed more like slow torture. So I chose the head.

That's Kawabata's house.

Too bad I couldn't get in.

Yasunari Kawabata's house

Sign outside Yasunari Kawabata's house

Happy to find Kawabata Yasunari's house

Kelly and Anna in front of Yasunari Kawabata's house

Standing in front of Yasunari Kawabata's house

So little time, so many places in Kamakura that I would have wanted to visit, like the Five Great Zen Temples, or the Museum of Literature (that's where Kawabata's stuff are displayed, along with Natsumi Soseki and and Ozu's) etc etc.

Maybe next time.