I found friends amongst the other students with surprising ease, making my first friend ten minutes into the study abroad student orientation. Within five days, I had found myself a small group of friends, who I enjoyed eating, adventuring, and conversing with. I consider myself a shy person, so I was surprised at how fast I became comfortable and friendly with my peers. I believe our collective culture-shocked struggling helped speed up the process, but I also think the fun trips my friends and I made before the school year started greatly contributed to our close relationships.
On Saturday, a large group of Temple University students decided to go on a day trip to Kotoku-in Temple and Enoshima Island. I decided to join the trip and spent the entire day getting to know the people I was traveling with, Ben, Krys, and Cailyn.
Our group took the JR train line to Shinagawa station and then boarded the Yokosuka train for Kamakura station. We arrived at Kamakura station within an hour and walked through the small town to the famous Kotoku-in Temple, containing a giant cast-iron Buddha. Unlike Tokyo, the streets in Kamakura were quiet and small. Gated houses lined the block instead of the high rise apartments of the city.
The Kotoku-in Temple grounds were neatly kept, with gravel and concrete grounds and low-hanging green trees barely rustling in the wind. We paid a 200 yen entrance fee and ceremonially washed our hands at temizuya pavilions with ice cold water in small wooden ladles.
The giant Buddha Kotoku-in is famous for sat in plain sight with a small cast iron ball for burning incense sitting at his feet. Nearby was a small stand where people could buy lucky charms, or omamori, to take home from the temple; or small packets of pink incense to burn at the temple. Many students took pictures with the Buddha or gave him a small bow. For an additional 100 yen, we could even walk inside of the Buddha and see his hollowed iron insides.
From Kamakura, our student exploration group took the 45-minute train ride to Enoshima station, and crossed a bridge across the ocean to Enoshima island. Enoshima Island was beautiful and cold, and sloped upwards dramatically. I quickly grew tired climbing up staircase after staircase, with the cold, salty, wind whipping my face. However, the shrines and views of ocean that met us when we got to the top of each staircase were incredible.
My group also went through several underground caves on the island. The caves were less picturesque, but they contained many historical statues which were dedicated to the sea goddess from Buddhist mythology, Benzaiten, who is believed to have created Enoshima island herself, raising it out of the sea in a giant earthquake.
After several hours, snow started falling on the island, blowing sideways in small white flakes. Ben, Krys, and I decided that we were not prepared for this change in weather and headed back to the mainland in our own small group.
After 13 hours of walking and adventuring in barely-above-freezing weather, I crawled into my dorm bed, exhausted and sore, but overjoyed at the exciting new experiences I had with my new friends. I look forward to having more adventures with them throughout the semester.