The Japanese word for “wheelchair-accessible” is “Ganbatte!”.In fact, forget wheelchair-accessible.I’m fairly certain that the places I visited yesterday would not have been accessible to me save for 6 months of daily SealTeamPT training.And I was gasping for air near the top of these stairs.“Oh, those stairs?They don’t look so bad, Jay.”Yeah, I know.Those are the stairs that lead to the other stairs, which then lead to the stairs that take you to the third set of stairs.
When you are tired, you get to a little water station.
This water will serve as a temptation to give up and return while you do the next set of stairs.
I think Kenchoji actually means "stairs" in Japanese. (actually, the real word for stairs is "kaidan" which sounds alot like "kwaidan" which is a word for "ghost story" and I think I was about to become another one of those.) In any event, if you are not yet dissuaded, about 20 of these Tengu statues will look at you like you are nuts while you ascend the next set of stairs. There, some old man will pass you because you are taking too long.Then, after more stairs, you will get to the top and realize that you just climbed an entire mountain looking over Kamakura.And think, “I bet there wasa sign that warned this trip was long, but I was too busy making up Kansai-ben jokes when we learned those Kanji in class.”
Shinjuku is one of the twenty-odd wards of Tokyo, sort of like a neighborhood in NYC (the Village, Soho, ESPN sports-zone, etc.).It has more residents than most cities in Virginia, over 300,000, and to me seems packed with foreigners for some reason.It’s also almost 400 years old, not that you could tell from all the neon and Ella Fitzgerald blasting from the towering department stores.
It’s also a great place to get your Bulgari sunglasses, or fried octopus, or soak your feet in a pool of fish at a spa, or pay a woman 1000 yen to talk to you for a ½ hour, or buy a straw hat, which is apparently the fashion this week because 1/3 of all the young women and 1/5 of the men are wearing the freakin’ things.
With that in mind, I had planned this trip to include a trip to Kamakura, which is a city thought to be about 1000 years old and was the 4th largest city in the world – in 1200 A.D.We had done the temple visiting to death in Kyoto, but I thought it would be a break from giant cat mascots and flashing neon bananas. Kamakura is about 31 miles from Tokyo and, of course, has train stops all along the way at various sights, so it couldn’t (seem) easier.
It was easy – to get to, that is.But once we got to the temples, I knew we needed to split up inside each complex.If A has a special reserve of energy for shopping, I have a special reserve of energy for temple-viewing.I can be so tired that I can’t move, so hot that my shirt is 80% water, and be unable to finish a complete sentence, but I am going to go up that hill and see what’s up there.Hell, in 5 days I’m going to be back in my office listening to some defense attorney whine about how some criminal deserves a 2nd/3rd/4th/20th chance.
Why?Because you never know the treasures that you will find halfway across the world in a tiny corner of a forgotten part of a nearly forgotten building.We didn’t do the “forgotten-temple” tour that I did in Dazaifu last year; that would have killed A and probably me too.But even an Engakuji, there were tiny moments of beauty.
I’ve been doing martial arts on and off (mostly off) for almost 20 years.
I’ve liked some of our workout spaces more than others.But seriously, Japan takes an unfair advantage.I found a group of Kyudo (archery) practitioners who study in an actual Zen Buddhist temple, founded in 1282.I could have spent the rest of my trip just watching them.
But then again, we still needed to go to the beach. Fortunately, it's only a 15 minute walk from the Giant Buddha statue.