Hello all! Just a little post about our adventure to Yokohama and Kamakura this past holiday weekend.
This year Japan had a new national holiday called Mountain Day on August 11. We also got the following Friday, Monday, and Tuesday off for obon (a Buddhist holiday during which people honour the spirits of their ancestors), so Paul and I decided to take a trip down to Yokohama!
Yokohama is in the Kanagawa prefecture, just half an hour south of Tokyo by train (so from Tatebayashi it was about a two to two and a half hour train ride). It’s the second largest city in Japan due to the fact that it was the first port to be opened to Commodore Perry in the early 1850s. Paul and I love it because (to us midwesterners) it’s a quieter version of the big city. (It’s also our chance to stuff our faces with deliciously unhealthy American food. Woo!)
We’ve stayed in Yokohama before on little weekend trips. The hotel we usually stay at is called Toyoko Inn, which offers a typical-sized Japanese hotel room for about $70 per night.
When we first arrived Sunday morning, we were immediately inundated with pikachu. Inadvertently we’d stumbled into town on the last day of “Pikachu Outbreak.”
Pikachu were everywhere. Pikachu hats, pikachu statues, even a couple of enormous pikachu blow-up castles.
I wasn’t sure if this was just some surreal dream or a mad nightmare.
I think the best pikachu thing I saw that day was the dancing pikachu; unfortunately, the event was so packed that I barely saw anything! I only caught a glimpse of one pikachu dancing to Party Rock through some fake foliage. Alas!
One of our favourite restaurants in Japan is Bubby’s, a burger restaurant that started in New York. Any time we’re in Tokyo, that’s where we have lunch! (The only place in Tatebayashi you can get a burger is McDonald’s and Mos Burger.) Bobby’s also has fantastic pancakes and amazing fresh-pressed fruit sodas!
There was also a dude entertaining a crowd. He set up four dolls to jump over on his unicycle. He almost made it!
Across the street from Landmark Tower were some neat rides, though they were pretty expensive. Paul and I rode on one whirligig-doodad (I’ve forgotten the name). I’d forgotten how scared Paul was of heights! Poor thing, haha.
On Monday we took a train down to Kamakura. Kamakura, south of Yokohama, was the capital of Japan a thousand years ago. It’s a lovely seaside city – and unfortunately for us, a popular tourist destination! This week is the holiday obon, so a lot of people have taken time off to be with their families, so the trains were pretty packed. Nevertheless, it was fun to play tourist in Japan – it’s been a year since I’ve done something like this!
We took the train and then walked to the Kotokuin Shrine where the 13.35 meter (43.8 feet) bronze Kamakura Daibutsu resides. It’s one of the largest bronze Buddhas in Japan, second only to the one in Todaiji Temple in Nara.
Flanking the entrance to the temple are two niou (仁王), guardians of the Buddha. Once we passed through, we saw many people stop at the purification fountain. You’re supposed to rinse your hands, then your mouth and spit the water back out; I did the ritual once a while ago in a Tokyo shrine, but I accidentally swallowed the water…so I skipped the fountain here.
Once we paid the 200¥ (about $2) charge to get in, we saw the Buddha!
People left offerings of fruit (looks like melons, peaches, and a pineapple), flowers, and a bottle of what looks like green tea for the Buddha. In front of the statue is a big bronze incense burner. People will buy bundles of incense, prop them up inside, and waft the smoke over their heads to make them smarter. Paul tried to do it, but he forgot to take his towel off his head, so I’m not sure if it worked, haha!
There was also a monk standing and chanting off to the side, as well as a giant pair of sandals made for the Buddha.
We also went inside the Buddha! Since it’s made of bronze, it’s hollow, and it only cost 20¥ (about 20 cents) to go in. The way is incredibly narrow and the steps are small and steep, and there were a lot of people that day, so it was a tight fit. But it was so cool to go inside!
The Kamakura Daibutsu was first built in the mid-13th century from wood, but was soon destroyed in a storm. The bronze Buddha that now stands was cast within a few decades after the original’s destruction and has weathered typhoons, earthquakes, and tsunamis. The numerous halls built to shelter it were destroyed one after the other over the passing years, after a while they stopped building them all together and the statue has been standing out in the open for many centuries now.
Afterwards, we headed over to view Enoshima. By this time we figured that the island would be packed with tourists, so we decided to just take the train out there and take a look from across the bridge. Good thing we planned to do that, because the train was paaaaacked! The train went by the beach, which was neat, and I was just barely able to see a little bit through the gap in the people.
Unfortunately, the heat of the day caught up to me and we stopped instead for some tea and an old fancy tea shop and then headed back. Instead of taking the regular train back to Yokohama, we took the sky train over the neighbourhoods. It was awesome seeing everything from above!
And that was our trip! It’s sometimes easy to forget that we live in a foreign country. Even though I still have trouble understanding people, I have a routine I follow every day; I go to work, do the groceries, the laundry, the gym, eat at restaurants around town, etc. I forget that there’s a whole beautiful and fascinating Japan outside of Tatebayashi, and I hope I can keep traveling to see new things!
Some pictures from our last night:
And the last shot: my favourite dude!