Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Kamakura, Take 1

Yesterday (day three of my Japan adventure) I had a really, really wonderful day visiting a lovely town called Kamakura, which is about a 20 minute train ride away from Yokosuka. I finally felt like I was getting an authentic Japan experience (despite being in Japan for the last 4 days). Yokosuka is heavily influenced by the American Naval Base, and while Yokohama is admittedly Japanese, it still gives off a big city vibe that you can get almost anywhere. Kamakura, on the other hand, is a quaint, small town. Immediately upon arriving, the town just gives off a much nicer, more relaxed feel. Whereas in Yokohama, I felt strange pulling out my camera (even though, let's face it, I'm easily identifiable as a tourist), here I just walked around with it around my neck, snapping up pictures as I went along.

There are many Zen temples and shrines in Kamakura, with the Tsurugoaka Hachiman-gu temple smack dab in the center of town. You get there by walking up a long path of cherry trees, which must be spectacular when they're in bloom.
The main temple is at the top of a long flight of stairs, with cherry trees on both sides. I was a bit too early to get the full effect, but there was one early bloomer at the top of the stairs, on the right, and I was clearly not the only one rejoicing at this sign of Spring.

After wandering back down to the train station, I decided to take a chance and try taking the public bus system to another temple which had rated 3 stars in my guide book, Hokoku-ji.

Now, I had read that when you get on the bus, you take a ticket from the machine, then when you get out, you put your ticket in the reader and pay the amount indicated. Of course, I get on the bus and I can't for the life of me figure out how the ticket machine works. Luckily, the driver was standing right there (you get on at the back of the bus, get off at the front), and he spoke English to boot. He told me there was no ticket, and he'd let me know when we got to the right stop. Naturally, when it was time to get off, I made a complete ass of myself. The fair was 190 yen (about 2$). I pull out two 100 yen coins. The driver then asks me if I need change, and points to a slot in the machine. "No, that's OK" I say, and dump both coins in, when to my horror a great spew of change comes out of the machine. I start to stumble through all these coins, trying to count out 190 yen, when the driver looks at me like I'm a 3 year-old, takes out a 10 yen coin and hands it to me, then kindly points to the proper slot. Right! 200 - 10 = 190!!! Gotcha! Laughing nervously, I got off the bus, and swore to walk back into town.

Hokoku-ji was indeed lovely (I don't know if I would have given it 3 stars, but oh well). An especially nice little part was a bamboo forest at the back of the shrine. There was an area where you could sit quietly and sip green tea. Quite lovely.
By now it was high time I had lunch, so I walked back into town and found a restaurant that specializes in Udon noodles. Yum!
After lunch I wandered around some more before catching a train back to Yokosuka. There's a great little alley near the train station, full of shops and street vendors and shoppers. It almost has a Chinatown feel to it, it's so packed with stuff. Phil arrived back at the hotel shortly after I did, and after going through our respective days, we headed out to a restaurant to have dinner. I wasn't too hungry (not after that feast!), but Phil was ravenous, so we wound up going to another local mall where there are 2 floors of restaurants.

After dinner we walked around the mall, and Phil just couldn't resist going into a local arcade. I call it an arcade, but really, giant amusement complex would be a better term. The thing spans four floors, and has more giant games and neon than I've ever seen in my life. Even Phil couldn't believe it.

On our way back to the hotel through the side streets, we came upon this bar:Um, Fuck Yeah? I didn't realize this made for appropriate advertising. Maybe we should try something like this back home. Perhaps in a Swiffer commercial or something? :)

Today I'm going back to Kamakura. I actually only managed to see about half the temples yesterday, and there's also a giant stone Bouddha that I want to visit. Tonight I may be meeting Bethany at the Naval base. She lives right here in Yokosuka and read about my trip here on the forums on Ravelry, and offered to have me over for their regular knit night. Is that cool or what? FUCK YEAH!!! :)

Happy day everyone!


Sereknitty said...

A knit night in Japan ... fun for you! Have you figured out where the Koigu factory is yet? That would definitely be a 'must see' for me. You're so brave to try out the transit system and do all that sight-seeing on your own ... I'm really impressed!

Jennifer said...


I need someplace tranquil to knit and be peaceful and drink green tea.

Did I mention yet how jealous I am?

Jessica said...

I just got back from my week away at work and I'm catching up on the blogs. Superduper hilarious. You guys are truly the best tourist photographers.

Knit & Purl Mama said...

I'm loving your photos too. I'm so jealous of all the places you are visiting.

Love hearing the details.

Love the Yarn Harlot's book in your lunch pic!

Can't wait to hear about your knit night next!