We were thinking about tackling a trip to Kamakura on our own. The description in our trusty guide book made it sound like it would not be too difficult to get there, and after the massive traffic delays on the Mt. Fuji tour, we were not anxious to take another bus tour. In the end, though, we decided to take a Walking Tour that traveled to Kamakura by train.

The group was smaller than the other tours - only 10 people - and we were delighted to discover that our guide would be the woman who led our tour to Nikko. The day was overcast and rainy, but it wasn't quite as wet as the Nikko trip.

Our first stop in Kamakura was the Kotokuin Temple where there is a large bronze statue of Buddha that was cast in the 13th century. The statue was originally inside a temple, but a tsunami in the 15th century washed away the temple and left the statue standing in the open.

After a delicious pasta lunch in a Spanish restaurant, we walked on to the Hase Kannon Temple where there is a large gilded statue of Kannon, goddess of mercy, that was carved from a giant cypress tree. Photography is not permitted in the temple, but there are some lovely gardens on the grounds and a view of the Pacific Ocean. The temple also includes an area where parents place small statues to remember children who have died, a large wooden wheel that people turn (our guide says that turning the wheel is supposed to have the same enlightening effect as reading all the Buddhist scriptures), a statue of the kitchen god (touching him is supposed to ensure wealth), and a museum which houses many religious statues.

One amusing thing about Kamakura, is that there are several Hawaiian style stores in town. Our guide explained that this is because people also go to Kamakura to surf and to sail. On a wet October afternoon, that was difficult to believe, but it turned out that there was a yacht race in progress that day, and if you look at the picture with the yachts closely, you will also see someone water skiing.

Our final stop of the day was the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shinto Shrine. There are 3 torii gates along the walkway to the shrine, and an arched bridge at the entrance. The shrine was built in the 11th century, and many ceremonies are held there.

We were fortunate enough to be there during a Shinto wedding ceremony. It was almost like watching a play. The wedding was going on in a pavillon while hundreds of people walked by and took pictures. Our guide told us this was a popular place to get married and that reservations had to be made over a year in advance. There were also many babies in white gowns who were being brought to the shrine for a blessing ceremony and two cute little children all dressed up in traditional garb for a ceremony which our guide said is usually held in November. She thought that perhaps the family was going to be busy in November so they were having the ceremony early.