Kamakura: A Day at the Beach!

Sorry it has been a few days since my last post, but to be honest, I have not been doing anything but buying souvenirs and revisiting places I have already been since arriving back in Tokyo late Thursday night. One major event happened Friday night, but I’m planning on saving that story for my final few posts that will be in a three part series starting tomorrow morning (for you guys) if I can put all my thoughts together before then…I have to actually pre-write some of these ones.

Anywho, Sunday was the last day that we had to use our free JR (Japan Rail) passes which granted us unlimited access to all rails in and out of Tokyo basically for a whole week. As I just said, Sunday was our last day to take advantage of this lovely cheap transportation, and coincidentally it was also a free day :-). After hours of deliberation we finally decided that the ocean side town of Kamakura would be an ideal place to spend the day. We managed to make our way to the city, located about an hour by rail outside of the city, after first missing the stop because we were all reading (I was attempting to learn some Japanese and was completely zoned out), and having to jump train and ride back. Having finally gotten there, I immediately noticed that once again there was a different feel about this city than any other we had seen. Low buildings crowded the aging streets as hordes of buses, not subways, honked and chugged through the giant intersection outside the east station exit. A ring of mountains surrounded the city on three sides covered with lush green forestation, something only seen in the gardens of Tokyo. We started the adventure by walking down, then back up, an extremely busy shopping lane directly outside the station, across the bus-filled intersection. Not much to see here out of the ordinary, though it would appear that this city has a very large French influence considering the prevalence of Crepe shops and French flags waving in the alley as we made our way through an infinite number of souvenir shops, clothing shops, and, to my joy, tea shops. Overall, this street was not what we came for though, and certainly not aligned with my goal of the day, the Pacific Ocean.

Intersection at Kamakura Station. Photo by Trang Pham

Intersection at Kamakura Station. Photo by Trang Pham

Just when you think that would segue into to a story about the beach, I’m going to go in the complete other direction first and tell you all about the one stop we made before hitting the beach. Hopping back on a different, local train, we glided down to the Hase (Haseh I think is how you would say it) station in southeast Kamakura and began walking up the street towards the mountainous border of the city. After about a kilometer or so (if I had to guess), we came upon first, the coolest shop ever (more about that in a minute), and second, the entrance to the park in Kamakura that housed the Daibutsu, The Great Buddha of Kamakura. Now when they say “great” on the ticket stub for entry into the park, they are not kidding–it was huge. The giant praying Buddha statue that rose above the center of a large courtyard area in the center of the park was extremely hard to look at and only feel a, “that is cool” reaction. After washing my hands at the shrine entrance as is customary to do before praying in order to cleanse yourself before entering the area, I slowly crept up the steps leading to the large incense (of course) burner in front of the statues crossed legs. Between the statue’s base and the incense burner stood a magnificent offering table overflowing with fruits and flowers made in offering to the deity. There was also a large wooden box with multiple slots of wood fixed across the top creating a series of vertical lines on the box. I had seen these boxes in shrines before, they are meant for a monetary offering that is given before one prays. Feeling moved by the circumstances I found myself in, and not wanting to miss out on any part of this culture that I came in contact with, I dug out a few coins from my pockets, tossed them clinking down the wooded grate, and made a quick prayer before bowing and moving on with my life. Being that this was really only my second contact with the religion since I have been in Japan, I’m still very fascinated by the workings of it, and have really enjoyed taking part in some of these traditions.

The Daibutsu, meaning literally "large Buhdda"

The Daibutsu, meaning literally "large Buddha"

On the way down the winding, hilly street that led from the Daibutsu to the ocean I made a stop at arguably my favorite store I’ve seen since I’ve been here. Walking into the small corner shop I was instantly floored by the countless weapons that lined the walls and shelves of every nook and cranny in the store. Being that I collect this sort of thing and have been searching for a new addition to my collection since arriving in Tokyo, I knew that this would be the best place to find what I was searching for. Keeping my price range and practicality of bringing something like this home on a plane in mind, I cautiously picked through the deadly swords, throwing stars, axes, you name it, until my eyes finally rested on the gleaming white, sharkskin hilt of a small Katana sword. To make it better, a black and gold dragonfly jewel was encrusted into the sharkskin which made the sword an instant match for me. 32oo Yen later it was wrapped up and protruding proudly from the top of my backpack–off to the beach.

We snaked down the hill until in the distance there were no more buildings, no more mountains, just hazy horizon, and we knew that we had made it to the water. Now, this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to those of you reading this who frequent the oceans in, say, Hampton Beach, but I assure you all that seeing the pacific ocean from the other side of the world was a pretty outstanding experience. The water was freezing. I mentioned a second ago that whole Hampton Beach thing, right? Well, imagine that water in early spring time, and that is the comparable temperature of Kamakura’s beach water. Also not unlike the shores of New Hampshire, the beach held giant stretches of seaweed-covered sand; sand which was so finely granulated that it floated freely in the rough surf and stuck to every part of your body even after a solid toweling off. How do I know these latter facts? Because I jumped the hell in, that’s how. I came halfway across the world to a beach I will probably never see again, and I’ll be damned if I let this opportunity pass me by. So, after finding the most disgusting bathroom/changing room I have ever been in, I threw on my basketball shorts, snapped a picture, and sprinted out into the freezing water. I will say again that the water was probably no more than 65 degrees, but at least now I can say that I have swam in Japanese waters.

Out in the Pacific Ocean at the Beach in Kamakura, Japan

Out in the Pacific Ocean at the Beach in Kamakura, Japan

Jumping for Joy after getting out of the water! Yay!

Jumping for Joy after getting out of the water! Yay!

The day ended with some good conversation around the dinner table (four of us managed to get a giant meal cooked for about 320 Yen a piece, win), a few beers, and some awesome Japanese TV narration. This post ends my official daily record of my trip to Japan. I hope you will all keep reading over the next few days for my concluding thoughts on this life-changing experience. Thank you.

PS: As always, a complete set of pictures can be found on my Photobucket site

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One Response to “Kamakura: A Day at the Beach!”

  1. geovanny Says:

    good luck

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