Wednesday morning we awoke with plans to hit up Starbucks for coffee, snacks and wifi before heading out to see the Great Buddha in Kamakura. We got to Starbucks, got coffee, and after several failed attempts to get wifi access, we finally asked the baristas for help – icons for available wifi kept showing up but we weren’t able to sign on. They handed us a small card with three wifi companies and passwords on it, and after more failed attempts we asked them for help again, and found out that you had to have accounts previously set up with these wifi companies to use the wifi in Starbucks. We asked them where else we might be able to get wifi, they didn’t really know… By now we were pretty bummed out with the lack of wifi access in Japan, and about to just give up. But minutes later, as we were walking towards the subway station to head out, we stumbled upon a FedEx/Kinko’s, internet! It was like being in Europe in the 90’s and paying for access in an internet cafe, but oh well. We had to pay about $16 for 45 minutes of interweb access, but finally, we got internet access after almost 48 hours without it. Nestor had to send a couple important work emails, we wanted to update our tumblr to let family and friends know we were alive and well, and we had to check a couple of logistical things.
Kamakura is about 30 miles SW of Tokyo, and is relatively easy to get to once you have mastered the Tokyo public transportation system (and with a little help from wikitravel). We had to take the JR line to the Tokyo stop and then take another line from there to the Hase Station and then take a little train called the Enoden line 3 stops to the Kamakura stop. All in all about an hour of travelling.
It was actually a very cute little town, and fairly non-touristy, yet contained many elements interesting to tourists – windy side streets, interesting stores, and a fair choice of restaurants. The Great Buddha was a 5-minute walk from the train stop. As you head in the general direction, it is exciting to see the head of the buddha peek out above the trees, and you realize the magnitude of the statue.
The bronze statue of Buddha is 44 feet tall, weights 93 tons, is hollow inside, and is proposed to be from the year 1252. Nestor was able to figure out all the important features on our new digital camera, a Sony Nex5, to be able to accomodate the cloudy, rainy day. Its amazing what a good camera can do; despite the overcast weather, he got some amazing photos. While he was taking pictures, I paid 20 yen to check out Buddha’s interior, not too shabby, but the outside is much more magnificent. The rest of the grounds at the Kotokuin temple were well-groomed zen gardens and pathways; there is even a small little store where you can buy bookmarks, post cards, key chains, and more.
It was an awesome experience to see this statue in person, both because it is one of the most famous statues in Japan, and because Nestor has it tattooed on his arm – as one of the main features of his sleeve currently in progress.