Posts Tagged Kamakura
I was confused when my friend UPS woke me up. I was not on my comfortable futon in my room. I was also not on my slightly less comfortable floor couch. I was sleeping on the hard floor in my coworker Vivian’s room, still wearing the same clothes from the day before. UPS wanted to get going before having to engage in any awkward conversations with Chrissy, Vivian’s roommate that he became “acquainted with” the night before.
We walked back towards my apartment, and I was unfortunately not able to get a straight answer on how his night went. We ate, got cleaned up, packed, and took returned to the train station, bound for Kamakura.
At this point in my 2 plus years in Japan, I have been to Kamakura several times, however it never stops being an impressive and interesting place to visit. UPS and I went to see Daibutsu, the giant bronze Buddha statue, and Hase temple. I was able to pass along a lot of the information I had learned from previous visits, and also got an impressive picture with giant Buddha’s sandals!
From Kamakura we went to Yokohama, then took Minatomirai line towards the Minatomirai area. We spent a long time wandering around both the port area and Yokohama Chinatown, stopping for some great food. The Chinatown area is very energetic at night, and despite being in Japan, feels like you have wandered into a different country.
After exploring for some time, we decided to continue on to our evening destination: Roppongi.
(cue ominous music)
I swapped the day off so I could go see fireworks in Kamakura with The Penpal. One of her friends lives in the area and invited us out.
Like the other fireworks shows I have watched this year, this show was nothing short of amazing, even thought it was a bit cloudy which affected some of the visibility. My personal highlight was a giant Doraemon head which was made up of several fireworks, which would have taken a lot of planning. Japanese firework shows are serious business!
After the show, tens of thousands of people tried to use the train station at the same time. It was PACKED. The station staff was giving directions with a megaphone informing everyone that the train was very busy, and which lines were going in which directions.
When we finally got on the train it reminded me of my nights on the last train out of Shibuya. The Penpal and I were pressed up against each other, which under most circumstances would be a good thing. However, we were also being crushed on all sides by strangers, and the temperature was approximately 6 million degrees and humid. It took some of the fun out of the situation.
The Penpal and I stayed the night in a hotel in nearby Fujisawa, both so we didn’t have to worry about returning to Numazu late, and also because it was good to get some time together.
Today’s column is a few months overdue. I had the best intentions to write about my Japaniversary when it happened, but life got in the way. Anyway, here goes.
I have officially been in Japan for 1 year (and 2 months). The last year has gone by entirely too quickly. I have managed to meet about a zillion people, work in a completely new job, see many interesting things, and do things I never imagined before. It has been a great year, and I am looking forward to (possibly) another year in this great country. Of course, with the good comes some bad as well. So without further delay, here is the official “Drinking in Japan first year in Japan Highlights and Lowlights List”, presented in alphabetical order.
- Australians – I have never seen so many Australians in my life. They are generally really cool people. They are like the Canadians of the Southern hemisphere, if Canadians lived in a warm country. Maybe Canadians are the Aussies of the Northern hemisphere, who knows.
- Drink Bar – Many “family” style restaurants have self serve drink bar with free refills. Great for hot days!
- Food – The selection and quality of food here is unbelievable. Everything tastes good!
- Japanese people – Japanese people are great! Overall, they are very friendly and helpful to visitors, and are really fun to party with.
- Kamakura – There is a GIANT Buddha here. What more do you need?
- Karaoke – I LOVE karaoke! I love that most karaoke is in a private room with friends, and that you can get food and drinks delivered.
- Koban – A Japanese police box. Instead of having a few centrally located police stations, there are many small police boxes scattered throughout the cities. The police are able to patrol a familiar area, and are great for giving directions to lost travelers. The Koban system works really well for densely populated areas.
- Kyoto – You can experience Japan’s history in a city where you can’t walk down the street without tripping over a temple or shrine.
- Mt. Fuji – Impossible not to like. A snow covered Mt. Fuji is beautiful.
- Nikko – Probably the most breathtaking place in the country for sightseeing. Allegedly there are monkeys there too.
- Niku man – (niku = meat, man = steamed bun) Chinese steamed meat buns are sold for 100 yen each in convenience stores and are a great snack. You can also get pizza man, curry man, and bean paste man.
- Shinkansen – A.K.A. the bullet train. Cruising across the country at 250km/h rules!
- Tokyo Nightlife – Wow. There are so many places catering to everyone’s liking, it is really impossible to see it all. I haven’t even scratched the surface of all of the options.
- Skirts – Skirts are popular here, and they are great. Seriously great.
- Skylark Express – What can you say about a restaurant that serves you hamburger steak, rice, soup and a vegetable in 60 seconds for five dollars?
- Students – One of the best things about being a teacher is actually seeing someone improve over time. Giving a level up recommendation to a student is one of the highlights of my job.
- Visitors – I had two sets of visitors this summer which both provided incredibly fun times and great memories.
- Winter – A winter without snow and with temperatures that stay on the happy side of freezing are okay by me.
- Yen – Japanese money is worth a lot in other places.
- Yokohama – It’s big, fun and has everything Tokyo does, but a completely different feel.
- Being illiterate – It is a shock to go from being an intelligent, functional person to being almost completely illiterate. It is frustrating to have trouble doing basic everyday things. I am improving, but it is still difficult.
- Crowded trains – There is not much more uncomfortable than being wedged into a train that is 200% over capacity while trying to carry a bunch of bags.
- Garbage collection – The rules for garbage collection are annoying and difficult to understand. Garbage must be separated into about 500 categories, each with their own collection day. And there is always one cranky neighbour making sure you are doing it right.
- Getting lost – Only the largest streets have names, and most seem to have been designed completely at random. Someone’s mailing address is no help at all when it comes to finding anything. With my meager Japanese skills I can ask for directions, but understanding the answer is still challenging.
- Hangovers – Cheap alcohol, all you can drink, the Japanese party spirit, and my rubber arm make for some serious overindulgence. I have had 2 of the worst hangovers in my life here.
- Japanese style toilets – I am still scared to death of these things, and have managed to avoid them for any “serious” business.
- Kids classes – I still don’t feel completely comfortable in a classroom full of children.
- Loneliness – Being far away from home can be incredibly lonely. It sucks knowing that your friends and family are enjoying life as usual while you are stuck in a small room on the other side of the planet. No matter how much you fit in and how many friends you make, it’s jut not home sometimes.
- Missing Last Train – Last train comes way too early, and if you miss it you are committed to an expensive taxi ride or staying out till first train.
- Movies – I like Japanese movies, but without subtitles I am lost. Watching Jackie Chan movies is nearly impossible because only Japanese subtitles are available.
- NOVA Usagi – Man, I really hate that thing!
- Size – Streets are narrow, rooms are smaller, clothes are smaller, cars are smaller, everything is smaller. It’s a big adjustment for me, and I am not even a particularly large person.
- Summer – Too hot, way too humid.
It’s been a good year, and thanks for reading!
Today I went hiking with one of my language exchange friends that I met shortly after I moved to Japan. Let’s call her Aki. We had met up a few times in the past, but hadn’t seen each other recently.
Aki is a big fan of hiking. I am not a big fan, but I do like a nice long walk at times. Despite my lack of regular exercise, my unhealthy eating habits, and my larger than sensible beer consumption, I do have an amazing ability to walk long distances.
We met near Enoshima, a small island near Kamakura. The island has a great mix of beach, rocks, hills, trees and great views of the ocean and the mainland. There is also a large shrine. Unfortunately due to the recent typhoon, there was a lot of damage to the trees. Workers were cleaning up branches and fallen trees all over the island.
From Enoshima, we walked to Kamakura. The other times I have been to Kamakura, I mainly went to the popular tourist places. Our walk took us through the city itself. We saw a rare Catholic church, and a traditional Japanese wedding in a shrine.
Aki and I hadn’t kept in touch lately, so she seemed a bit surprised at my news that I had a girlfriend and that I was moving to Shizuoka.
In total we walked for about 5 hours, stopping only to stuff ourselves at a soba restaurant. If you are near Tokyo and like hiking, Enoshima is definitely worth the trip. As with any outing in Japan, you will walk a lot more than you expect, so wear comfortable shoes.
Today was the last full day in Japan for my visitors. Breaking with our trend, we all actually got up early. The plan for the day was to meet The Penpal and her friends in Kamakura and see some of the sights. It was raining steadily as we left Hello House for the station.
We met up with The Penpal and friends, and got a quick lunch before sightseeing. During lunch, Flounder was trying to teach some rude English to the Japanese people in our group. He was trying to convince them that “motherf**ker” was a commonly used word between friends, and provided various examples. I think Flounder believes that we all live in a 70’s blaxploitation film.
After lunch we started our sightseeing at Hachiman-gu shrine. Despite the rain we saw yet another traditional wedding. From Hachiman-gu we walked to Daibutsu. By this point the rain was bucketing down and we were all soaked, even with umbrellas. Almost nobody carries an umbrella in Winnipeg, so Code Red, Hippie, Green and Flounder were all having umbrella fights as we walked.
At Daibutsu we spent most of our time under cover trying to stay out of the rain. Since the rain didn’t let up, we decided to go back towards the station and find an indoor activity to do. We went to – you guess it – another game center. The game center had a large selection of print club machines. Print club machines are large photo booths that are popular with teenage girls. You can take your pictures with various backgrounds and then draw on the pictures or add cute pictures. At the end the machine prints out copies of your pictures. We loaded all 8 guys in our group into the print club machine and took some ridiculous pictures. After the game center, we found some nearby karaoke where we sang and ate.
We returned to Hello House soaked to the bone after a fun day. Going to Kamakura is always good, but today was was even more exciting because I got to introduce my girlfriend to my friends.
Today I went to Kamakura. Kamakura was the capital of Japan in the first two hundred years of the Bakufu (military) government. It is just south of Yokohama. I met The Penpal there. We went to a Shinto shrine where I was attacked by pigeons shortly after getting a “best luck” fortune. We also saw Daibutsu (Great Buddha) which is huge statue of Buddha built in the year 1252. It has been restored and rebuilt over time when it fell because of earthquakes or tidal waves. We finished the sightseeing at a Buddhist temple which was absolutely beautiful. More info when I have the proper names of the places I went to available. In Kamakura we saw a New Orleans style Jazz band playing in the street. Overall, a great day.
I met The Penpal at Ofuna station. I asked her to look for me, because I am very easy to find in public. Also, I had not seen a good picture of The Penpal before, so finding her would have been nearly impossible.
The Penpal made a very good tour guide, taking me to Daibutsu, Hachiman-Gu Shrine and Hasedera. There were good English signs in the area, but she knew a little more about each place than was explained on the signs. After sightseeing we went to Baskin Robbins near Kamakura station. We got ice cream and talked for almost two hours. Since we had been emailing each other for over a year, we were fairly comfortable with each other and it was more like a meeting of old friends than almost strangers.
Overall, a very good day. Kamakura is highly recommended!
On July 13 The Wife and I went to Kamakura to meet her friend and husband. I have been to Kamakura many times before, and it is always interesting every time. This particular day was hot, humid and sunny. Since my shorts were in the wash, I was stuck wearing jeans which allowed me to slowly cook through the day like a Thanksgiving turkey.
From Mishima station we took Tokaido line to Ofuna station. At Ofuna we changed to the Yokusuka line and had a short ride to Kamakura. We met The Wife’s friend at the station. Kamakura gets a lot of visitors from other countries, but with my blond hair and giant nose I stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. I am always easy to find in busy train stations.
From Kamakura station we got on the Enoden line. The Enoden line is a unique experience because it is so narrow and essentially winds its way through people’s back yards. I got off the train at Wadazuka and nervously followed The Wife and friend along side the tracks to a hidden dessert restaurant. Seriously, if a train had come we would have had to flatten ourselves against the wall. The restaurant itself was beautiful and served fantastic traditional Japanese sweets at low tables with tatami mats. For the record – I do not recommend walking along busy train lines looking for hidden restaurants.
After another scary walk beside the train line, we took a train to Hase station and began the walk towards Daibutsu, the giant Buddha statue of Kamakura. Along the way we encountered endless souvenir shops and restaurants. Among the highlights were a Turkish Donair Kebab restaurant, an ice cream shop where US President Obama stopped for Ice Cream and several stores that sold gummy Buddha candies. The Wife happily bought some gummy Buddhas as a souvenir, but I had mixed feelings on the issue. Imagine the controversy if someone sold gummy Jesus candies at the Vatican, or gummy Mohammad candies just outside of Mecca. I don’t think people would be impressed even if they saw that the gummy candies were available in 4 different flavours.
I have been to Daibutsu before, but it is still an impressive sight every time. It was built in 1252 out of bronze and stands over 13 meters high. It has survived tsunamis, earthquakes, wars and millions of tourists, only needing a little rebuilding and reinforcing from time to time. If you are visiting the greater Tokyo area, Kamakura is always a worthwhile stop.
Leaving Daibutsu, we took a sweaty walk down the street and made our way to Hase Dera, home to a massive wooden statue of Kannon. The temple grounds are elaborately landscaped with lush trees and flowers. Like Daibutsu, I had been to Hase Dera before, but never in this season. The trees were almost overwhelmingly green and delicately manicured. The grounds are also home to some beautiful stone statues and a cave with carvings of different gods inside.
On the way home we treated ourselves to the Green Car on Tokaido line. The Green car has reclining seats with tray tables like the Shinkansen, but is just a part of the regular train. We ate sushi bentos from Ofuna station, which has a huge selection of restaurants and bento shops. I love sushi, but sushi where the fish came out of the ocean that morning is light years ahead of sushi made from frozen fish. I also treated myself to a Chinese meat bun (nikuman) because it’s been way too long since I had one.
We returned to Numazu and I immediately peeled off my still damp clothes and took a shower. Summer in Japan is WAY too hot and humid especially in a popular tourist area full of people.