Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Last day in Japan; Kamakura

There is a joy to traveling with friends, and there is also a joy to traveling by yourself. I guess you could say I like traveling, one way or the other...

Hiro had plans with friends and family during the day and for dinner, so I decided to take a day trip to Kamakura. It was rainy in the morning, and the forecast called for more rain, but I wouldn't let that stop me. Kamakura is the home to many interesting historical places, and is about an hour from Tokyo on the train. I decided to go there with only enough cash on me for trainfare on the way back for some reason - subconsciously, I think I seek novel experiences, and if nothing else, needing money when I arrived would encourage me to explore as a local would, and interact with people.

And so it was. In Japan, only 711 stores, Citibank and HSBC allow withdrawals from foreign banks, and after talking (in English; my Japanese was never good) to a rickshaw driver, I found there was no such place in Kamakura. So, I tried going to another bank just to see if it would work, and it didn't, but a nice guard there pointed me towards the post office. His broken English directions were sufficient, and I found that, indeed, post offices in Japan allow withdrawals by foreigners. Good to know for future reference. Once again Japan proved itself a great place to travel given its polite and helpful citizenry.

Now that I was loaded, I had lunch at a random place off the main, tree-lined avenue that advertised Crocodile over rice. Crocodile tastes like smokey chicken, and I was happy with my meal. The restaurant was a small, out of the way place on the second floor of a small building away from the street. I spoke there with the waitress and the chef. My impression was that they were married - the waitress was Japanese, and the chef was from Bangladesh, and we spoke about travels around the World. He was a friendly soul, which is always nice to meet anywhere you go.

My first destination was The Great Buddha in Kamakura. It's one of the largest buddha statues in the world, and stands freely outdoors. Hiro said when he was a kid you could walk inside it, but it was shuttered in the back when I was there.

Great Buddha

The leaves on the trees had mostly fallen, but there was a still a brightness about the place.

To travel around Kamakura, I took the local Enoiden train line, which is an old electric train that has a fun nostalgia about it.

The anti-Shinkansen

I walked around the area near the train station near the Great Buddha, and found a pretty temple with a view of the ocean. Hase-dera is on a hill, and to greet temple goers in the front were Buddha statues that looked to be made of brightly colored plastic from a distance, but were in fact made of cardboard with bright lights shown upon them.

Blutu statue in front of the temple

Side view of Blutu statues

I hiked around the temple area, up a hill and back, taking in what had become another sunny day in Japan. Above, Kites flew around, perhaps picking up scraps tourists left behind, but for me, signaling the proximity of the ocean. I had been to the ocean now from both the West and the East!

The Pacific Ocean

I spent a few minutes at various artist shops, then made my way back to the Enoiden, where I rode it to nearly the last stop at Enoshima. Enoshima is an island just off the coast of Japan. I spent a few hours walking around there, seeing how the place catered to tourists, though it seemed out of season. The rain started to pick up, so opening the transparent plastic umbrella I'd been given at the hotel, I walked back to the train. Legions of people used these umbrellas in Tokyo, which is a constrant to New York, where the cheap umbrellas are black and opaque.

Enoshima through the rain at night

After a quick dinner back at the hotel, I met up with Hiro, Yoba, Tomo, and Yosuke for one last night on the town. We had good food, and good drinks one more time before Hiro and I had to head back to our hotel. Our flight the next morning was at 11 AM, so we had to get up early to make sure we gave ourselves enough time to pack and get to the airport for check-in.

One of the few negatives about Tokyo is that there is no public transportation after 12:30. There is an entire industry built around this - small beds at, say, Internet Cafes are available for the weary traveler who can't make it home. Given the number of people who drink, this is amounts to a fair number of people every Friday and Saturday at least. Hiro and I, walking with Yoba, eventually found a cab and headed back to the hotel.

The next morning, we took a bus with the words "Airport Limousine" on the side of it to Narita airport, and boarded our flight.

Goodbye Japan

Hello Long Island, Hello New York

I'll have another post or two about this trip to come. There are some pictures I didn't include anywhere before this, and some additional thoughts I have about Japan. Now it's off to my second day back at work. I hope the jet lag doesn't drag on me like yesterday!


  1. Jet lag SUCKS. If I had to do it over again, I would have taken another 4 days off.

    Looks like you had an amazing trip! I love those clear plastic umbrellas! Our hotel gives those out if you ask for it. And I made sure I always had at least 10000Yen on me; it's an expensive place.

  2. Yeah I'm STILL jet lagged! Boooo! I'm still waking up at odd hours every night. Oh well. It was worth it though...the trip was so much fun!