After missing my intended train station, I got off at Ofuna and went to change trains. I looked out towards the city to see if I wanted to stop back here another time and saw a white statue at the top of a hill. My curiosity got the best of me and I had to come back and check it out.
Visions of Indiana Jones filled my head as I loaded up my daughter in the backpack to begin our search for the white statue. One of the many things I love about Japan is how easily accessible things are from the train stations. We have a train station a quick 10 minute walk away that we use almost daily. We have a card loaded with yen and off we go. The trains are clean and are so timely that you could set your watch by them.
After getting off the train, we walked across a bridge towards the statue. A Japanese gentleman looked at my face full of concentration and helped direct me in the right direction. We followed a Japanese family up this steep walkway toward the temple. I am in awe of how well the elderly maneuver these steep and often narrow pathways. I am not in peak shape but I can hold my own on a good hike, but I must admit that I was a little winded by the time I reached the top.
When we reached the peak, the grounded leveled off so we could pay for entrance into the temple (300 yen). The kind woman at the counter gave me an information sheet written in English to tell me about this important temple.
Kannon is the Buddhist goddess of mercy. She stands 25 meters tall and was built as a prayer for world peace. Her construction began in 1929 but was put on hold due to war.
After finally reaching the top of the staircase, we were rewarded for our efforts by seeing Kannon herself. It was a beautiful day and she seemed to glow against the blue landscape. Flowers rested on the bench in front of her and a signed stated that the bench next to it was for offerings to this god.
My back felt like I was carrying an extra 40 pounds which was my cue that someone was resting after our walk. I gently nudged my daughter who was snuggled into the carrier. I didn't want her to miss this. As one eye slowly opened, I watched her expression change from sleep to fascination.
"WOW! Beautiful!", came the groggy voice from my back.
"Yes sweetheart, I feel the same way. She's pretty huh?"
The wonderment was clearly evident as my daughter said, "Mama, she's gorgeous!"
I couldn't agree more. With all that I've seen in our short 5 months here, Ofuna Kannon is easily my favorite.
After we circled the statue, A and I sat down to learn a little more about this beautiful structure.
We learned that:
* It took 31 years from start to finish to complete Kannon.
* People seek out Kannon as a source of comfort during periods of solitude and homesickness. Which is actually kind of handy since a military housing facility is close by.
* Every Autumn, there is a Yum-Kannon festival where people gather to sing, dance, and experience traditional stalls and vendors.
I spent more time lingering at this temple then I normally do. With each angle, I noticed something different about this stunning structure. We also learned that stones were carried here from ground zero of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to remind people about the war and how important peace is. These stones are found in the garden below the structure.
We also learned that there is a flame inside of this statue that forever burns. The flames were taken from the fire that ensued after the 1945 attack on Hiroshima.
I tend to be a perfectionist and I hate when things go wrong in my plans. However, getting on the wrong train was a real blessing and I'm so thankful that I stumbled upon this breath taking temple and statue. I'm looking forward to making more mistakes that lead to surprises like this.
Ofuna Kannon in Kamakura, Japan