Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Kamakura, Enoshima, and Sayonara

Though a person could easily spend days in Tokyo, for my last full day in Japan, I wanted to get out of the big city. So, after consulting the Googs, I decided to check out a place called Kamakura.

Before going, Heather and Cameron gave me a few pieces of advice about where to hit, and it turned out their advice was right on.

From Tokyo Station, Kamakura is an hour's train ride south via JR Rail.

After arriving at the station, my plan was to take the subway to my first destination, but then I saw a bike rental sign. Then I remembered it was a beautiful day.

Clearly, it was pedal time.

Should you ever visit Kamakura after reading this blog, and should the visit take place on a nice day, and should everyone in your group on said visit be old enough to appreciate it, I highly recommend renting bikes to get around the city. Kamakura is small, there's not a lot of traffic, and it's by the ocean. I mean, come on. It's like a small Monterey...okay, that may not be true since I've never been there. But the point is, it's a coastal, chill city that's perfect for a beach cruiser.

Anyway, moving on...first stop on the list: Kotoku-in.

There's a large Buddha statue here known as the Kamakura Daibutsu. It's a pretty cool sight, and you can step inside of the statue, but there's not much else that I saw here that I couldn't see for free somewhere else (it cost 200 yen to get inside). Regardless, I'm glad I dropped by.

Inside the statue
I hopped back on the bike and took an unintended detour to what became my next stop: Hasedera Temple. It cost 300 yen to enter, and in my opinion, it was well worth it. The gardens, the temple, the view of the ocean...amazing.

I loved the trees outside of the temple. (Don't get me wrong; they were great inside the grounds, too!)

Consider the lily [pads].

Peace, bro.
Zen garden. I love the detail here.

Entrance to a cave/shrine
Inside the cave

The main temple, which is on a platform above the gardens... ocean view...
...a bamboo forest...
...and proof that I was there.
After lunch by the temple, I returned to Kentaro (my bicycle) and resumed the journey.

Up next: Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine.

The map refers to this shrine as a place you "cannot miss." What the map didn't say is that the shrine is a place you "cannot bike to unless you've been part of the Tour de France or an Ironman relay." Maybe the next version of the map will have that crucial detail, because wow...that hill was steep!

Made it to the entrance. That gate marks the cave that leads into the shrine. Pretty cool!

Also pictured: Kentaro
Life on the other side of the cave

It was a neat little shrine. After a while, Kentaro and I went down the hill and rode quickly. There was one more spot to see, and time was winding down.

I mentioned that Kamakura is a great place to ride around. This is true, with one notable exception:

Beyond this gate is a market. In that market are many people. Among those people lies little room for a bicycle.
My advice? Take the street that runs parallel on the right. That will lead towards what was my fourth destination: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.

I loved this place. Sadly, I only had a limited amount of time before I had to take Kentaro back home, so the visit was a bit rushed. Still, it was worthwhile.

I really liked the courtyard and how it seemed to frame the building.

View from the main shrine
A gate that led to more gates...this reminded me of Fushimi Inari.

As the sky shows, the weather conditions couldn't have been much better.

Though we had a grand time seeing Kamakura together, alas, it was time to drop Kentaro back off at the bike rental shop.

My next stop was Enoshima Island. I took a (pretty crowded) subway to get to Enoshima Station, and from there, it was a nice, easy walk through a market and over a bridge to get to the island.

Palm trees. They're just...great. Am I right?
I believe that's a marina where the Hong Kong/Australian/Taiwanese flags are located. Not sure.

But in any case, check out that sky.
Bridge to Enoshima
There was plenty to see once I stepped onto Enoshima, including a bustling market, views of mainland Japan, and yet another awesome shrine.

I also made sure I tried a few snacks along the way.

Mochi on a stick - strawberry, maybe vanilla, and maybe green tea.
Black vanilla ice cream - I wish I could say that this was genuine black vanilla bean,
 but something tells me it was just food coloring.
There was one place on Enoshima I felt that I definitely had to get to: Iwaya Caves.

The caves were spectacular on their own. The path that I took went along the coast and...well, it was just good for the heart.

I eventually made it into the cave (500 yen).
I'm not sure what the purpose of these blinking blue lights is, but they look pretty cool.
Towards the back of the first cave, it got so dark that the staff lent out candles.

Iwaya Caves includes two separate caves separated by a path that passes by the ocean.

I enjoyed the path as much as, if not more than, the actual caves.

This may be one of my favorite places of the trip.

At this point, I realized that I had been running around a lot throughout the trip. I don't regret being on the go in order to maximize my time, but at this point, I was ready to slow down a bit.

I must have stopped here for at least 30 minutes to watch the waves crash on the rocks. Truly relaxing.

Not shockingly, the caves aren't very forgiving to tall people. I was ducking for most of the time.

This dragon didn't seem too sympathetic.

With all the running around and taking in the views, I was hungry. It was high time for dinner. A few savvy/lucky restaurateurs set up some restaurants with a great view of the ocean. I don't visit places like Enoshima every day, so I ordered some grub and stared off in the horizon.

"Tuna sashimi always tastes better when the Pacific Ocean is in view." - Plato*

*For those feeling a bit gullible today (it's okay, I've been there), this is not the exact quote.
Summoning up a bit more ambition, I darted back through the island with the hope of catching the sunset from the beach. The views were already looking more golden, so I knew I had to move quickly.

Rushing through the market...
Upon reaching the bridge, I couldn't help but notice that several people were staring at something. I presumed it was the sunset, but then I saw what they saw.

No wonder they were staring.

Mt. Fuji was in view.

The pictures won't portray the epicness of the moment, but I'm posting them anyway.

BTW, I eventually made it to the beach.


After watching the sunset for a while and attempting to clean my filthy beach feet before putting my socks back on (sorry, socks), it was time to head back to Tokyo. It was a pretty uneventful return trip, though I did meet a nice guy who was a doctor. He was born in Nepal and emigrated to Australia, and he was just a great guy to chat with for part of the journey back.

Tuesday morning, I said goodbye to the Salony's, who were great hosts to me; met an old friend at Starbucks; and made my way to the airport. At Narita Airport, I had a completely new experience: No line for security or immigration. I was the only person. It was awesome, and it may be the only time I ever experience it!

Arigatou gozaimasu, Japan. It was a grand old time!

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