Many years ago, on my maiden trip to Tokyo, there was one place I wanted to see more than any other. It was the Daibutsu or the Great Buddha of Kamakura. I was introduced to this magnificent Buddha by a larger than life photograph taken by a friend. And something about the image just stayed with me for a long time.
When I finally made it to Kamakura and set eyes on this 44 feet outdoor bronze statue, I felt a mixture of awe, serenity and gratitude. Awe – because the statue dates back to 1252 and despite storms , tsunamis and earthquakes that eliminated the building in which this giant statue was housed and damaged the pedestal, the Buddha sits there, almost whispering, I will always be here. If you look at the image of the Buddha, just sitting in his meditative pose in the open amidst nature, regardless of your mental state, there is a brush of serenity that overcomes you. When you step aside and sit down and just let your mind focus on where you are and what you are seeing, there is a tremendous sense of gratitude felt for being able to see and experience something so beautiful that has stood the test of time.
I recently returned to Kamakura with the kids and this time, we made it a day trip, walking around town, visiting the many temples in the area, spending time watching the beautiful view of the town from atop a temple and of course imagining how a tsunami could have had a devastating impact on this small town.
This time, we climbed inside the Buddha and could see the metal core up close. And as we came out and sat in the garden admiring the statue for one last time before walking away, Siddhi said, “Mom, you know I am not a believer, but the Buddha here and Christ the Redeemer in Rio make me feel like someone is watching over me.”
How To’s: To visit Kamakura, we took the JR Toikado Main Line from Shimbashi to Ofuna and transferred to the JR Yokosuka Line to Kamakura. The train ride took 45 minutes. We then simply asked someone to point us in the direction of the Daibutsu and commenced our walk. There are plenty of signs along the way to guide you. The temple housing the Buddha is open from 8 am to 5:30 pm. There is an entrance fee to the temple to see the Buddha and a small extra fee to climb inside. Please do plan to spend the day exploring the town, including visiting the many temples in the area.