Thursday, 9 July 2015

What a Friend We Have in Jizōs 44

‘Aspire to be like Mt. Fuji, with such a broad and solid foundation  
 that the strongest earthquake cannot move you, and so tall that the     
 greatest enterprises of common men seem insignificant from your 
 lofty perspective. With your mind as high as Mt Fuji you can see 
 all things  clearly. And you can see all the forces that shape events; 
 not just the things happening near to you.’
                                                                          Miyamoto Musashi

The Daibutsu hiking trail finished along the railway tracks, at Kama-kita station. In 1603 the shogun, Ieyatsu Tokugawa, moved the capital to what would become Tokyo, returning Kamakura to the small fishing village it had been before Yoritomo's arrival. That was the plan for the rest of our day as well. But it didn’t go as planned.
The uniformed railway official, behind his protective booth, gestured that we couldn’t board any Tokyo-bound trains from his station. Robyn and I would have to take a commuter south into Kamakura city. Because we didn’t understand how to buy the required tickets out of the machine, his frustration boiled over when he came out from his protective booth, and physically fired our washed coins into the right slots. We bowed low for being so incompetent, and left on the first carriage into Kamakura.
We began walking a long, wide city centre boulevard, through multiple torii, towards the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, tracking the time we had before our real train would leave for Tokyo. Off in the distance we could just make out our destination, growing larger too slowly. The shrine was dedicated to Hachiman, god of archery and war and, by extension, after Yoritomo built the shrine in 1180, the protector of the samurai warrior class he had brought to power.
In front of a shop with an intricate display of plastic food, Robyn and I bought two murasaki-imo sofuto purple sweet potato ice cream cones. We ate them as fast as we walked, making every lick and second count.
Flanking the main approach to Tsurugaoka were two ponds. One represented the Minamoto Clan and has three islands, while the other symbolized the Taira Clan, the Minamoto's arch rivals, and has four islands, because the number four is pronounced the same as ‘death’ in Japanese.
“Lots of death here.” I said. To the left of the wide stairway leading up to the Hongu main hall had been a large ginkgo, once used as a hideout in an ambush attack on a shogun. Every autumn the tree turned beautifully golden, but it died in a winter storm four years before our visit.

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