Kamakura Inspires NII Participants to Find the Spirit of Japan

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Date and Time: Wednesday, December 11, 13:30 p.m. – 17:00 p.m.
Spots: Houkokuji Temple, Jomyoji Temple and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Visitors: 24 participants at the NII (National Institute of Informatics) Computer Science International conference: 4 each from Italy and China, 3 each from Japan and Canada, 2 from Thailand,1 each from Germany, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, the USA, Spain, India and the UK.
Attendants: 2 KSGG members
Language: English

At the rock garden in Houkokuji Temple, one participant asked the guides why the dry landscape was made. One of the guides answered that it embodied a Japanese culture where simplicity was made much of and people had to express themselves by using what was available. Since there was no water, sand and stone were used to evoke the vast ocean and beautiful flowing streams. Feeling relaxed in the friendly atmosphere, the participants walked to the next temple, Jomyoji Temple. Impressed by the tea server’s solemnity during a tea ceremony at the tea house in the precincts of the temple, they took part in sober earnest. A few of them videotaped the ceremony. We also explained to the guests how to express their gratitude to the tea server according to tea ceremony protocol. At Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, one participant, who was interested in Japanese calligraphy, bought a writing brush and an inkstick. Other participants pulled out fortune slips, one of which was a Shokichi, the fourth-placed result out of seven possibilities. We, the guides, were embarrassed to translate the fortune slip for her, at one point of which it predicted that the person’s health was too bad to recover! Fortunately, she laughed it off even saying that she would take it back home as a souvenir.* She was very bright and cheerful; and thus her personality relieved our concern.
We said good-by to them on Komachi-dori Street, and headed for Kamakura Station. Wakamiya-oji Street, which we walked along, was lit by lanterns and had some sort of fantasy atmosphere. It was another appeal of the ancient city Kamakura that we realized at the end of the tour.

*Usually, only a good fortune slip is kept. For a less favorable prediction, the slip is tied to a tree branch or a wooden frame near the shrine office, which is erected as a substitute for a tree.