Yokohama and Kamakura, Japan

Yokohama

This is the commencement of a 28 day cruise around Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea and the Philippines.

I have been here in 2010. Here is a link to the blog post for that visit: https://lesliesh.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/yokahama-japan/  I had two days before embarking on the cruise to visit in Yokohama and nearby Kamakura.

Kamakura

I took the train to Kamakura to visit the various temples. The first stop was the Great Buddha of Kamakura, a bronze statue of the Amida Buddha, which stands on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. With a height of 11.4 meters, it is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, surpassed only by the statue in Nara’s Todaji Temple which I visited in 2011 (https://lesliesh.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/nara-and-hiroshima/ .) The statue was cast in 1252 and originally located inside a large hall. However, the temple buildings were destroyed multiple times by typhoons and a tidal wave in the 14th and 15th centuries. Since 1495, the Buddha has been standing in the open air.

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There are many temples here but I visited only a few of them.  It would take many more days to see more of them. If you come, you must be prepared for a lot of walking.

Close to the Buddha Statue, Hasadera Temple was constructed in the 8th century to honour an eleven headed Kannon statue which had been carved from a camphor tree near the site of the temple. The statue was thrown into the sea with a prayer that it would reappear to save the people. In 736 on the night of June 18th it washed ashore on a nearby  beach sending out rays of light in the process. The temple was then constructed to honour it. In the Benten-kutsu Cave, is a statue of the eight armed Benzeiten the goddess of water and wealth and the only female among the Seven Japanese Gods of Fortune.

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Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is Kamakura’s most important shrine. It was founded in 1063, and enlarged and moved to its current site in 1180 by the founder and first shogun of the Kamakura government. The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the Minamoto family and of the samurai in general.  A Zen Buddhist wedding was taking place at the shrine while I was there and it being a Saturday, there were many visitors to the shrine to wish them well.

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Kenchoji is the oldest of Kamakura’s five great Zen temples. It was founded by the ruling regent Hojo Tokiyori in 1253 during the Kencho Era after which it was named. Its first head priest was a Zen priest from China.  Although considerably smaller than during its early days, Kenchoji still consists of a large number of temple buildings and sub-temples, and stretches from the entrance gate at the bottom of the valley far into the hills behind. After passing through the Sanmon main gate, one sees the Butsuden or Budda Hall and the Karamon Gate. These were originally mausoleum buildings belonging to the Shogunate and were located in Tokyo They were moved piece by piece to their present location in 1647.

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Engakuji is one of the leading Zen temples in Eastern Japan and the number two of Kamakura’s five great Zen temples. Engakuji was founded by the ruling regent Hojo Tokimune in the year 1282, one year after a second attempted invasion of the Mongols which did not succeed. One purpose of the new temple was to pay respect to the fallen Japanese and Mongolian soldiers. Engakuji is built into the slopes of Kita-Kamakura’s forested hills. The first main structure encountered upon entering the temple grounds is the Sanmon main gate, which dates from 1783. Behind it stands the main hall, the Butsuden, which displays a wooden statue of the Shaka Buddha. The Butsuden was rebuilt relatively recently in 1964 after the former building was lost in an earthquake. Today, following the tradition of its founder the Zen Master Mugaku Sogen, the temple offers Zen training for novices and Zen meditation sessions for the general public.

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Yokohama

Today being Sunday, there were many events taking place in the parks along the harbour. I happened upon what seemed to be a dance contest or perhaps just entertainment.  The costumes of the various dance troupes were colourful and the dancers of all ages were obviously enjoying themselves.

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Chinatown was very crowded and the main priority of most people seemed to be to try out all of the delicious food on offer both in the many restaurants and at the take away places.

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Tomorrow I embark the ship and we sail for our first port, Shimizu.

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Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Attached are some photos of Quebec City the last port call of the cruise.

IMG_5305Old Quebec

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IMG_5358The Plains of Abraham

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Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Today was cool but sunny for a scenic tour of part of PEI. We travelled through countryside which for the most part consists of farms, mostly potato farms. Potatoes, lobster and other fish and tourism are the mainstays of the economy. Tourism has been bolstered by the opening 20 years ago of a 9 mile long bridge connecting PEI to New Brunswick on mainland Canada. The pictures were mostly taken through the bus window so there are some reflections which I cannot fix with the software on my tablet.

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Sydney, Nova Scotia and the Fortress of Louisbourg

The Fortress of Louisbourg was the largest fortified town outside of Europe when built in the early 18th c. Louisbourg was once a thriving seaport, the third busiest harbour in North America and one of France’s key centres of trade and military strength in the new world. We started the tour with a drive through the historic North end of Sydney. On arrival at the fortress we were entertained by costumed actors who reenacted the lives of specific people who lived there prior to the sieges by the British. We first went to the engineer’s house where two housemaids treated us to hot chocolate made with a historical recipe using 5 spices. A soldier then told us about military life and showed us how to load and shoot a musket. We then had free time to visit the Governor’s apartments and military chapel. We also visited the centre describing how the fortress was reconstructed starting in the 1960’s using documents from the French archives. We also saw a military house. Boys were not educated but the nuns taught girls to read and write and do household chores and we visited the school. We also had a chance to purchase baked goods made from historical recipes. In the summer months the entire fortress is open to visitors.

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Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada

Winds delayed our arrival in Halifax but we had our stay extended to compensate. I have been here many times and today decided to visit the Halifax Public Gardens to see a tropical agave tree that had grown out of its greenhouse and had made the news in my local newspaper. It is about 40 years old and at some point will flower and then die. To me it looked Iike maybe it had already done so. However there were many other plants in bloom. I also went to see the new public library which has won architectural awards and is said to be one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It is quite impressive. I then visited the Nova Scotia Art Gallery. Those who have seen the movie Maudie will know the story of the folk painter Maud Lewis. The gallery has a large exhibit of her paintings including her painted house. It is almost doll sized. Lastly I visited the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic which has an informative exhibit about the Titanic.

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Bar Harbor Maine, USA

Sunday we stopped in Bar Harbor where we tendered to shore. This is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the U.S. I was last here in August 2012 at which time I toured Acadia National Park. This time I wandered around the pretty town and took the Shore Walk along the bay. There are many large homes such as Breakwater built for a grandson of John Jacob Astor in 1903. At one place people were building small stone sculptures along the edge of the bay. Lilacs and other plants were in bloom. This is the lobster capital of the U.S. and there were many fishing boats out in the harbour. Our next stop is Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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Fort Hamilton, Bermuda

Today, Thursday is our last morning in Bermuda. It is raining so I will forgo my planned visit to the Botanical Gardens and visit Fort Hamilton. I got quite wet in the process. The moat surrounding the fort is now a tropical jungle. The main square is a garden. However the storerooms below ground can be visited. There are a few guns on the ramparts and the view from there is quite nice even in the
rain. Our ship, the MS Veendam is visible in the harbour. We sail for Boston at noon. Sunday, we will be in Bar Harbor Maine.

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