Slow Trains in Japan and the Great Buddha


The Daibatstu Great Buddha of Kamakura

Day two in Kamakura had our intrepid group set out on our own for the first time on the trip, trying our hand at navigating the Enoden Electric Railway line and walking along the hills in the area, exploring more temples and dropping down to the beach for a bit.

View through the conductor's cab of the Enoden Electric Rail line
View through the conductor’s cab of the Enoden Electric Rail line

The Enoden line is special for its 100+ year history and also because it provides last mile connectivity to towns which are otherwise underserved by the JR rail network. And, for tourists, because it connects to some of the more famous temples in the Kamakura area. Our first ride on the line turned out to be something of a lucky one, assuming you’re something of a transportation nerd like I am: We scored the retro-car, an older rail stock vehicle which still runs on the line. I didn’t realize that at the time but still got a couple photos to memorialize the trip.

Boarding the throw-back train on the Enoden Electric Rail line
Boarding the throw-back train on the Enoden Electric Rail line

After a quick ride from Kamakura to Gokurakuji we set out on foot to explore the temples, shrines and waterfront.

Hasedera Temple

The temple is famous for its 11-headed goddess covered in gold leaf but that didn’t do much for me. I was rather smitten by the temple grounds however, with spectacularly manicured gardens and views out to the ocean.

Pausing to pray at Hase-dera
Pausing to pray at Hase-dera

Also at Hasedera is the Benten-kutsu Cave. This is a small (very, in some places) stone cave with a number of icons resting in cut outs around the sides. Most are lit by candles, casting a soft glow over the entire cave and creating a spectacular scene.

Candle illuminating one of the carved sculptures inside Hasedera's Benten-kutsu Cave
Candle illuminating one of the carved sculptures inside Hasedera’s Benten-kutsu Cave

The fish swimming about were fun, too.

Fish enjoying their home at the Hase-dera shrine
Fish enjoying their home at the Hase-dera shrine

Great Buddha (Daibutsu)

As one of the largest Buddha statues in Japan the Daibutsu site gets many, many visitors. A whole bunch of school groups were there taking class photos while we were on the grounds; I resisted the urge to try to blend in. The statue dates back to 1252 and sits approximately 13 meters tall. It is impressive in the way it dominates the space but was also a bit of a let down, perhaps because the large ones we saw in Myanmar were tremendous. Still, quite an impressive site and it has aged well despite tsunamis and earthquakes which have done damage to the surroundings.

The Daibatstu Great Buddha of Kamakura
The Daibatstu Great Buddha of Kamakura
Guardian of the entrance to the Daibatsu Great Buddha
Guardian of the entrance to the Daibatsu Great Buddha

Two days of temples was enough for us (or at least for me) and so it was time to move on in our trip, north to Tokyo where the energy levels and crowds were at a much different level.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

2 Comments

  1. I am a big fan of Japan and thank you for the great report and pictures.
    I may have missed it but did you fly Into NET or HND?

    1. Flew in to NRT. Didn’t mention it because I didn’t write about the flight over. Getting from there to Kamakura was mildly annoying but only one transfer en route so mostly just slow.

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