This morning, I needed to wake up early to meet in Shubuya at 10am, so I set several alarms for 8:30 including the a wake-up call on the hotel phone. It did the trick and I managed to wake on time, got ready and caught the train. I was surprised that, as you can see on the right, there was a window at the front of the train so that you could see in to the driver’s cab. I arrived in Shubuya and waited by the statue of Hatchiko and met Sumie, Noriko and their friend Mari. We made our way to Kamakura, changing trains at the port city of Yokohama along the way – although I couldn’t tell where Tokyo ended and Yokohama began.
We arrived in Kamakura at around noon and as the girls were hungry (my body clock was still completely out so I didn’t want lunch) we looked for a place to eat. First, we looked in a beachfront restaurant apparently frequented by the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Cruise. We were put on the waiting list and then told we would have a table at 4 o’clock, so instead walked down the road to what can best be described as a Hawaiian-themed curry house.
There were quite a few Hawaiian-themed shops along the front of the beach, presumably because the beach seemed to be very popular with surfers. It was a nice little beach, with black sand and a small but enthusiastic crowd. After we had a look and some of us dipped our toes in the sea, we moved on and got the train (a traditional one which reminded me of the train in Spirited Away) to Kōtoku-in, a Buddhist temple which is home of to a very large statue of Buddha. Built in 1250, it has survived tsunamis and earthquakes. We had a look inside the statue and around the temple, which included a giant pair of slippers, big enough to fit the statue if they were ever needed.
From there we decided to walk to Zeniarai Benzaiten Shrine. There was the choice of a reportedly difficult hiking path or walking along the road. We chose the road, which felt like a hike anyway. With the heat bearing down on us, it was a very tiring walk, but also quite pleasant as we walked through an affluent residential area passing some very expensive looking houses, each one different to the last, some of them traditional while others had a very modern design, some clearly Japanese, others with European influences. On our way, we passed an old man on a bike who stopped to give us directions without us asking. The directions took us to a dead-end, where we found this creepy-looking tunnel, which had fresh cold air blowing out of it and once again reminded me of Spirited Away.
In the end, we got on the right track and walked up the final steep hill toward the atmospheric Shinto shrine with its entrance cut into the rock of the hill. Inside were all of the traditional parts of a Shinto shrine. I was invited to join in and wash my hands, light a candle and light some incense, but the most interesting ceremony and one unique to this shrine, was the washing of money (usually coins, but sometimes notes) in the water of the caves here, which is believed to help you to get rich.
Exhausted, we started to make our way back down to the station, dropping by a cafe for some beer along the way. It was a very sweet little place and we were all glad to rest our legs and have a chat as the temperatures started to cool outside. After a while, we headed back to the station and made our way back to Shibuya and then I returned to Shinjuku. On the way back to my hotel, I spotted a double-decker London Routemaster bus which was being used to promote one of the nearby shopping malls.
After a short while in my hotel room, I went out for a walk around Shinjuku, an area I’ve not seen much of aside from the walk between the train station and the hotel. Above the station is a mall which walked I through, getting slightly lost when I realised that, unlike the train station itself, most of the signage was in Japanese only. On the other side of the station was a busy area with lots of interesting looking buildings and many buskers, mostly pretty young girls singing not for spare change but to try to sell their CDs to passers by. I continued to walk around the station to try to get back to where I started but found myself getting into smaller and seedier looking alleyways. Aware that there are some dodgy areas to the east of the station, I turned back and looked for somewhere to pick up some food. In the end, I saw a Burger King where – outside the front door – there was a very enthusiastic girl waiting to take my order with a card menu with lots of pictures to help. She was so good that I was able to order a Whopper just the way I like it (without tomato and mayo).
I really do love it here in Tokyo. The people are so friendly and I’m really appreciating the culture of respect, plus there are so many exciting things to see and do. I think it’s also somehow making me appreciate and want to get more out of London, both are great world cities with so much to offer and it’s really easy to take this for granted.
Tomorrow, I’ll be spending the day with the otaku in Akihabara Electric Town for a day of gadgets, manga, videogames and possibly a visit to a Maid Cafe. Hmm…