Apr 062013

Today’s adventure brought us to Kamakura.

We started off the day with breakfast at the Excelsior Cafe, which is right next to the hotel. A ham and potato salad sandwich and a maple latte was a pretty good way to start my morning. With only one thing planned for the day, we took it easy getting out. Our only time constraint was what we had told our friends would be our meeting time. We hopped a train and made our way out.

We hit the Kamakura station a little early, and found a relatively easy spot to meet everybody. There was a nice little area with a small clock tower that we chose as a meeting point.

While we were waiting, I decided to commune with nature. I pulled out a bag of rice crackers I had from the plane ride over and fed a couple crumbs to the pigeons. Since they were already as bold as city pigeons tend to be, I figured I’d one-up. I crushed a couple crackers in my hand, and whoed them to the bird. She took a couple bits from me, and I brought my hand up higher. Bit by bit until she couldn’t reach them from the ground. Sure enough, she hopped up, and I made a new friend. She sat on my hand and ate the remaining crumbs while a handful of people walked by and marveled at the pigeon whisperer.

Tyler, one of Evan’s old schoolmates was in the area and came up to meet us. Once he showed, we stopped in a Baskin Robbins, where Rachel sated her sweet tooth. She was kind enough to share, and it was quite tasty. Soon enough it was time for Cori, my own friend who is currently teaching English in Nagoya, to meet us and we made our way back to the circle.

Once we were all together, we set out towards Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū. We took a local train, which was adorably painted and had children’s artwork on display inside. Once we disembarked, it was a short walk through the usual shops and restaurants to get to the temple. About this time, the rain started falling. It’s a Shinto shrine. Admittedly, I’m a little burned out on shrines and temples. They’re always beautiful, and terribly pleasing to be around, but they have all started to blend together. To the rescue, we witnessed the procession of a wedding taking place at the front of the temple. It was a beautiful ceremony, but we didn’t stick around too long. It seemed awkward to turn something so personal into a tourist attraction.

Once we were done at the temple, we headed back through the shops. We stopped into Hirano, which was barely noticeable but for Cori pointing it out. The sign dated the shop from 1969, and boasted to be Japan’s smallest ramen joint, and the second best ramen in Japan- declaring they don’t know where the best one is. We filed inside and sat at the counter. Our group of 5 took all but 2 seats in the place. Cori was kind enough to alleviate my confusion and order for me, and we all filled up on some truly wonderful, big bowls of ramen. If you’re in Kamakura, and you can find  it, this is the place to eat!

After lunch, I stepped into a Studio Ghibli shop for a couple souvenirs that suited my taste (and the taste of some people back home!). From there, we were on to our last stop for the day.

Kotoku-in temple- Home to a 700 something year old bronze Buddha statue. Umbrellas out, we arrived at the temple. We poked around the architecture, but the Great Buddha was our obvious focus. The statue was quite impressive in scale and construction. For a small fee we were allowed inside, where you could see how the separate pieces were molded and joined together. Very cool indeed! After some photo opportunities and a little poking around, we headed back towards the train.

We all said our goodbyes and parted ways. Back to three, Rachel, Evan, and I headed back to the hotel to collect ourselves. About an hour later, we headed out in search of dinner. We stopped in a shop that was both cheap and delicious looking. Likely a chain, it seemed almost fast-food like in appearance. For the price, the food was both plentiful and delicious. I had a plate of chicken, cabbage, and miscellaneous vegetables in a sweet and spicy sauce. Rachel was also kind enough to share the gyoza she ordered. Afterwards, we faced the rain one last time and headed back to the hotel.

Hopefully, it’ll taper off in time for the festival tomorrow.

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