It is starting to feel like winter in Japan. The thermometer we pass on the way to main base was 0 degree Celsius yesterday and this morning was -1 degree Celsius! Despite the chilly temperatures, I actually enjoy winter in the part of Japan where we live because it is much drier and so sunny! This picture is proof the abundance of sunshine. The reflection on the stop sign is blinding as I tried to capture the Japanese Maple!

Although I miss the excitement of a snow storm approaching, I don’t miss the grey sky gloom of the Midwest. Today was a crisp and perfect for a little exploring. Miki wanted to take me to her favorite Temple. Kakuonji Temple is located in Kamakura. A little off the beaten path and very close to the Red Leaf Trail.

Miki has visited this temple several times with Ikebana International. On those visits, a private tour in English was provided. During normal business hours, tours are offered hourly and only in Japanese. We arrived around 1330 and were asked to wait until 1400. As we waited, I snapped a few pictures of the remaining leaves.

Miki and I walked over to look at the prayer bell because it had a dedication in English. As I was snapping a picture, the head priest of the temple began speaking (in Japanese) with Miki. Their conversation resulted in him providing us with a private tour (in English) of the main temple and gardens.

Beyond the gate, the gardens of the temple are beautiful and serene. The original temple was destroyed and rebuilt. The temple contains Buddha, two other gods (sun and moon) and 12 warriors each representing the zodiac. Each of the warriors were looking in different directions and very life-like. Hand painted on the ceiling was a dragon. In Japanese culture, the dragon comes from the water and therefore by painting it on the ceiling it protects the temple from fire. Photography wasn’t permitted in the temple. You will have to visit to see the beauty of the temple for yourself!!

After the temple, we walked to the house where the warriors used to live. On our way, we passed this interesting plant. I stopped our guide and asked what it was. He replied, “Buddha’s hands.” I asked permission to photograph and touch. Yes, to both – it feels like an orange rind. We were informed it is not a good fruit to eat. Later, Miki and I came up with what it reminded us of – alien fingers, witch fingers, or the Grinch!

After asking for that photograph, I felt a little more bold. I asked if I could photograph the gardens. Hai! In the background is the main temple.

I also learned a few more interesting facts. The statues pictured are Jizo Bosatsu. They are Gods of the Earth. The can often be seen near farms as a prayer for a good harvest. Also, they are used as prayers for children. To give a family strong and healthy children. The red hat and bib are placed to statues for purification. Another interesting fact, the vermilion color of the Torii and bridges is also for purification. When a person walks through the Torii or over the bridge, they are purified. Next time I’m in VB, I want a ride in Roxanne’s vermilion MG – for purification, of course!

As we were walking out, the priest pointed out a very tall evergreen tree to us. He couldn’t remember “evergreen” and instead said “Christmas tree Momma.” Ha! I helped him with evergreen and he said yes, tallest in Kamakura. Pardon the power lines, they couldn’t be avoided! Consider it a little wabi-sabi.

Miki and I were very lucky and appreciative of our private tour of the Temple. It truly was an honor. Arigat┼Źgozaimas!