I couldn’t write last night because I accidentally drank too much sake at the beach and laughed too hard at the fact that even halfway across the world, someone- not us, mind you- wrote “penis” in the sand.
It was exhausting and I fell into bed before 8. Oh! Just found ocean detritus up my nose. Good beach day.
So my goal yesterday was to try really hard to fit into the group flow. I’ve said before that I have a difficult time with all the herding and the pace adjusting, and honestly, it was tough in Kamakura. We have these wonderful sweet volunteers taking us around, adult ed English students, and it blows my mind how much time they devote to make sure we have the Japanese experience. But then they also have to document every waking second of it, and after the 96th pose it gets a little forced. I do understand the inclination, though, because nature and the ancients fling the fast and furious photo ops here. I guess I’m just more inclined to take pictures of hilarious signs, like the one for… dog food?
or the “that’s what she said” writing prompt here:
I did kind of get excited about the grand scenery, though. See, Kamakura has this holy site- Hasedera- built on the steep hills of the coast, and its temples and statues are hundreds of years old. Some aesthetically far-sighted designers placed koi ponds, stone walkways, and an explosion of hydrangeas in strategic juxtaposition with the plethora of smoothly carved gods and goddesses, and the result is like a heavenly Asian wonderland. Unfortunately, our fetid throngs of humanity kind of put a damper on it. I couldn’t help thinking, as I was being jostled and shoved up this beautiful path at the pace of the crowd around me, that we were doing something wrong. There was no time to stop and smell the hydrangeas, per se, and the B.O. threatened to overpower it anyway. And then, at the pathway’s summit, at what should have been an unbroken vista of paradise, we saw the snaking lines of tourists and the dirty rooftops of modern urban sprawl.
It hurt my heart a little. I needed some of the quiet and the peace the Buddha preached.
As the crowd made my way back down the path, I tried to readjust my attitude again. It’s good that I’m with such kind, smiling people, because I’m afraid if I met my match of cynicism, we would together poison the congenial atmosphere. As it is, it’s a solid, happy group, and I was able to refocus in time to snap this with a genuine grin:
I also had to “time out” to clutch my stomach over this photo:
It’s one of our guides, and he wanted to pooch out his belly in imitation of the statue. Good stuff.
The giant carving of the Kannon, goddess of mercy, was another good lobotomizer for me. It’s one of the biggest wooden statues around (“around” being the Great Generalizer meaning “in Japan but probably more than that”) hewn from a single tree and eventually gilded in gold. It’s got all this symbolic meaning, which was awesome because I love symbols, but I won’t talk about any of them because I forgot. What I do remember is that 1) nobody was allowed to take pictures there, so it was appropriately more solemn, and that 2) that solemnity was ruined in the best way possible by an adorable little girl with squeaky shoes.
I also, after sneaking off for a bit, got to have a moment with these guys:
They were tucked off behind an incense structure so I was alone for a few seconds, and it finally gave me a sense of the peace that the whole place is meant to invoke.
Ice cream was next, and at the risk of being the cliche of the chick who takes pictures of her food: I ate this, you guys! It’s sweet potato green tea ice cream!
It was cold and stuff, but I’ll probably never have it again. A noodly lunch was next, and then off to a drugstore to buy beach booze. I actually purchased Japanese menthol cigarettes, too, in the interest of fully immersing myself in the culture, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to smoke one because of how much I enjoy the current capacity of my lungs. I might bring them home and trade them with friends for favors.
Two bottles of sake later, I found out we weren’t done being touristy and we stumbled off to see this dude:
As a rule, I try not to take photographs of landmarks that can be better absorbed by googling them. I find that whatever factor inspires awe simply cannot be translated by a bungling amateur, and the resulting 3×5 cheapens the experience. This thing, though, I snapped, because I wanted to everybody to see how hilarious it is that the people have left, as an offering, a relatively minuscule watermelon.
Changed my mind at breakfast, though. Good watermelon is unquestionably the nectar of the gods.
And I’m out.