>Port Call: Checking out the scenery of Tokyo

>Journal Entry written by Seaman Crowe :

The last day we were in Japan, a group of us decided to go out and try to see some of the more cultural sights in Japan. We ran into Mister Brown who was going out to do the same thing and told us about the city of Kamakura, where there were supposed to be a couple of major temples and shrines.

We pulled out some money and ran for the train station where we were studying the schedule for a good twenty minutes trying to figure out what all the colors and Japanese writing meant. We were eventually helped out by a friendly woman who spoke English and told us which trains to take and helped us purchase our tickets.

Four stops later we arrived in Kamakura. We rented some electric bicycles, which made getting around much easier. We only had to peddle a little bit and we would go faster than an ordinary manual bike.

We consulted a map of the Kamakura area, which was very confusing, being in Japanese and not too scale. It took us a few attempts to find the shrines, but after a while we found the right paths and roads.

As soon as we entered the temple grounds there was an instantaneous change in the atmosphere. The air was still and quiet, there were no birds, and the wind did not blow. The chaotic everyday noise of the city beyond the boundaries of the shrine was gone and replaced by quiet and calm.

There was a low square fountain where people would use wooden cups on long sticks to scoop up water and pour it over their hands in a ceremonial fashion. There were also lots of interconnected paths that lead through smaller gardens but they all intersected the main road.
At the end of the main road was a forty-foot tall green statue of Buddha staring down from a slightly raised dais of stone steps. I was totally awestruck when I saw it, I had had no idea what to expect. Everyone was very hushed and kept a respectful volume.

We walked around the statue and took some pictures and I noticed that there were people throwing money into a box, when the money landed in the box they would clap their hands twice and then pray briefly.

There was a door in the side of the statue and you could go inside it and see all the way up through its head. There was a small sign in English explaining the history of the statue. It was made of solid bronze and had been erected in 1200 A.D., during the reign of the Shogun when Nakamura had been the capital of Japan, and had survived multiple disasters over the years including earthquakes, floods and storms.

After we left the Buddha statue we went to visit another shrine, this one was at the end of a long packed dirt road and under a huge wooden archway painted red. Here the atmosphere echoed that of the Buddhist shrine, hushed and quiet, not even birds in the trees could be heard.

There was a tall wooden palace filled with various artifacts. The roof and the supports were all elaborately carved and decorated. There was a set of stairs that could be climbed and once at the top it was possible to see the layout of the entire area including, the palace the archway and the long dirt road leading there.

Here there were small wooden tablets that people would write things on before hanging them at the temple. All the writing was in Japanese, but I think they must have been prayers.

At the end of the day we rode our bikes back to the rental station and got back on the train to return to the boat.

It was one of the amazing experiences I’ve ever had, it was like time stood still in these places and there was sense of complete calm and peace that settled into me.

There are people who plan all their lives to travel and see the things that I’ve just seen, and I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to have seen and experienced everything I have since joining the Coast Guard.