Home to the Daibutsu, a surprisingly huge beach, a big shrine, and a very beautiful street in front of it, Kamakura is really pretty. It’s a bit hilly, so there are hiking trails, and it has a very nice charm when you walk through the residential areas, which offer a very welcome break from the Tokyo city centers.
This trip was actually just one day after the Kawagoe, which was about a month and a half ago. I wasn’t very active on this blog (well, at all), which was a due to having to work hard for school, some trips that took a long time, and a whole bunch of different things. This will likely turn out to be a long post, just so I don’t spread over these kind-of-updates over multiple posts.
There was an earthquake a week or so ago, which was covered by news outlets around the world, primarily because it occurred near where the 2011 disaster happened, and media tends to latch on to the name of one prefecture. The only thing we noticed first-hand here was the trains, which were a bit late because they had to stop. The earthquake caused a few fires from what I know, but there were no casualties. A great exaggeration from the western media, the earthquake was still quite weak by Japanese standards.
A couple of days after that, there was snow. Also covered by media around the world, because it was the first time in 54 years that it snowed in Tokyo in November. It was really cold that day, and really annoying because it wasn’t really snowing, sleet was falling, which made everything just wet. What was strange was that the day before and the day after, the temperature was around 15 °C.
Now, getting on with more interesting things. We had a school trip to an architectural museum, where we saw a whole bunch of nice buildings from the history of Japan, both eastern and western style. A very fun thing we also did was the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. I was the first one in our group who did the ceremony (you do it sequentially), so I had the very very important task of remembering what to do, in order to not embarrass myself.
The benefit of all that was that I actually had my tea made in front of me, which was really something. Setting in seiza was really tough, and after half an hour I couldn’t feel anything below my knees, but I soldiered through it and properly ate the delicious candy and drank the bitter tea. All of the formalities that seemed so unnecessary while we practiced the ceremony at school (yes, we did that) were really nice in the actual ceremony.
All in all, that day was probably one of the best ones I had so far since coming to Japan. The weather was awesome, which really meant a lot since the museum was open-air, we did some fun exercises (think back to your elementary school days, it was like that), and just had a really nice time walking around and doing whatever it is you do in a building museum. The teachers were really relaxed too, which was, I think, a nice change for them from the usual fast-paced daily routine we do at school.
We went to the Moshimoshi Nippon festival last week. It’s a festival about (modern) Japanese culture, with music performances and booths and things. It was free for foreigners and lasted for two days, but we were only there for an afternoon to catch the Band-Maid and Silent Siren performances and see all the booths. It was really loud and really fun, especially the performances. Most of my pictures are of me hugging mascots which walked around with their chaperones.
Besides all of this, we went to see a movie (kimi no na wa, 君の名は), all in Japanese and without subtitles. It was really weird being able to understand the movie almost entirely, but I think my extensive experience watching anime helped a lot. The movie was really good, but I still think other works from Shinkai Makoto, its director, are better. Oh, another thing we did was have a voluntary scan for tuberculosis with an x-ray van that came to school. It was a new experience and was over in about 5 seconds.
Other than that, we’ve now finished all of the exams we had at school and are practicing for our xmas performance. On Fridays, we mostly go to a local izakaya (a drinking establishment) and hang out with our volunteer’s Japanese class friends and extremely friendly local Japanese. We tried a lot of new, sometimes very strange, food there.
Oh, and another thing. I went to the supermarket in the middle of this post, and I figured out that you save 2 yen if you bring your own bag (and don’t use their plastic ones). Very nice!
Finally starting with Kamakura
To finally begin with what this post is supposed to be about, let’s talk about Kamakura! It really is a nice city. A completely different atmosphere than in Tokyo or Kawasaki, and it also looks a bit different because of its natural features. There is a lot of things to do and a whole bunch of history to take in, so our day was filled with interesting experiences and things to do. My buddies for this trip were Adam, Filip and Youri.
The city itself seemed a bit different, and I still can’t really say why. I guess it’s because there are a lot of trees and hills, which contrast the residential buildings - I didn’t see a single skyscraper, or at least I don’t remember any. There are also a LOT of wires hanging around, a lot more than I’m used to from where I live.
Anyway, the first stop we made was at the Kamakura Daibutsu - Japan’s tallest sitting Buddha statue. It was really something. From all I’ve heard about it before, I honestly expected it to be twice its actual size, but even then, it was a sight to behold. The whole temple was what I can honestly call awesome, with the original meaning of the word. We even went inside the Daibutsu!
We then continued onto another temple, the Hase-dera. Much larger than the previous one, it had a cave and lakes and a really awesome viewing platform, from which you could see the whole city and the beach. There were a lot of small statues, whose name I forgot, lined up in one area. Quite an interesting thing.
Speaking of beaches, we then went to the Kamakura beach. I touched the Pacific ocean for the first time! Exciting! There were a lot of birds (ravens I think?) who swooped down dangerously, trying to steal food from other kinds of birds. There were also kids bravely playing in the same area, something I found very weird.
Continuing with our trip, we went to see some smaller shrines, went for a hike on a nearby mountain, and then made our way to Tsurugaoka Hachimanguu, the biggest Shinto shrine in Kamakura. It’s historically really important for the area, and I’ll leave it up to Wikipedia to explain that in more detail. There was also a traditional Shinto wedding in progress while we were there, which was another thing I never thought I’d see in my time in Japan.
More smaller stops later, it was time to head home. The train station was a bit different to what we’re used to, because it had no gates, only a thing you touched your train card thing to. You also have to cross the tracks to get to the other side. While taking the picture below, a train was coming (you can actually see it in the distance), and the train crossing gates started to close. Kind of scary standing in the middle of the train tracks, when you know there’s a train approaching. But still quite safe, as the train wouldn’t arrive for another 20 seconds or so.
This is it for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed some new content after a long absence, apart from the boring Vulcanus thing, which was the last post. There will be more posts very soon, as I’ve almost finished editing their pictures, but they won’t have much in the way of updates - I did all of that in this one. See you soon!
See the full album linked to this post here (click)!