The weekend has reminded me how much more fun sightseeing is with other people. I’m enjoying getting about on my own, but 90% of my photos are just of stuff, and landscapes. Hanging out with real live people who speak your language is fun, and even better are people who speak your language and the native language!
Saturday we headed to Kamakura with one of Ken’s colleagues from England who was pretty cool. He ribbed Ken mercilessly all day long, and it made me miss the banter back home a bit. We caught the train out to Kamakura and I got to use my snazzy Japan Rail Pass – not only is it an awesome bargain that will save me a fortune on trains and get me waved through ticket barriers like royalty, it’s really pretty! (I know, such a girl)
From the train we spotted a giant statue of the Goddess of Mercy, just popping out of a forest. Once in Kamakura, we went around getting fleeced by temples and shrines. Practically every shrine and temple seemed to charge for entry, and whilst it wasn’t a lot (£2 or £3 a pop) it starts to mount up. Still, we got to see the Daibutsu (Big Buddha) that is Kamakura’s most distinctive attraction. And then, like a diametric opposite, we visited a temple that seemed to have thousands of small buddhas. Another buddha seemed to pop up at every turn! Laughing, smiling, serene, angry, bored, playing guitar, amassing an army of tiny buddhas. Every kind of buddha you could imagine.
All shrined out, we found a hiking trail and set off into the woods. Where we discovered that Ken’s colleague was scared of spiders, Ken was possibly scared of the dark (or at least, of darkness arriving before we got out of the forest, which is pretty fair), and I was afraid of tripping over a tree root and slipping down a very long drop to a very sticky end. Thankfully none of these fears materialised.
On Sunday Yen and I got up relatively early (by my standards) and headed for Shinagawa to check out the flea market there. It was pretty cool, supposedly there are up to 150 stalls there, and I bought vintage japanese postcards for 10 yen each (less than 10p!), as well as a kimono and obi for 2,500 yen (about £15). If you’re in Tokyo and trying to find a flea market to visit, I recommend http://events.paperlantern.net/month.php
A couple of Yen’s friends joined us and we caught the train over to Yoyogi, to walk through the park and check out Meiji-jingu shrine. I wasn’t sure if I’d be that interested in going as I was all shrined out from Kamakura, but I’m so glad we did. Yen’s friend Eimily had never been either, so we raced ahead of the others and discovered not one but two weddings being held in the grounds of the shrine. They were incredible to watch, everyone in extremely formal kimonos walking in procession through the courtyard.
At the other extreme of the fancy dress world, we went to Harajuku and checked out the cosplayers, but sadly there were only a few there, and some of them were gaijin! That’s no fair right? But there were two girls so fabulously dressed it rather made up for it, and Yen asked if I could have a photo with them. We then wandered through Yoyogi park and watched the Tokyoites at play – people having picnics and playing badminton, sword-fighters, fan dancers and choirs practising, rockabillies entertaining the crowd with their dancemoves. All in all a really fun day out!
Tomorrow, more day tripping in the form of Hakone National Park, and if you’re very good I’ll tell you all about my trip to the Ghibli Museum…