Seriously, this place is just more fun than Kyoto, and so much more accessible. We really do love coming here.
Today was the third time we’ve been to Kamakura, and the second time we went to go swimming. I’ve been begging Mark to go swimming for something like a month and a half now, and we finally did it today. And it was glorious, as usual, although shit went down, as it usually does.
Kamakura is about an hour’s train ride from Ikebukuro on the Shonan-Shinjuku line, and if you want to get out for a while and see some nature, a beach-side city and a literal TON of shrines, this is the place. It was the first capital city in Japan after the Edo period, and was home to the first official Shogunate. It sits along the coast and has plenty of places to eat, shop and swim. It’s a perfect day trip, and a way to feel like you’ve really left the city for a while.
When you get off at Kamakura station, exit the station, and turn right, you can rent bikes from a nice little shop on the side street. If you turn left, you’ll go down the shopping street that leads to the major shrine, Tsurugaoka Hachimangū. There’s also an amazing, authentic stationary and chiyogami paper shop on that street. And tons of ice cream and the local Kamakura beer.
But today, we went right, rented bikes, and got our asses down to the beach. It’s maybe a 10-minute ride, at most. We knew the beach would be crowded with young people, since we’re currently in summer holiday, so we were planning to turn left at the end of the road and ride on over to Zushi, the next town over. We wanted some space!
We didn’t have to go to Zushi, though, since after riding maybe 400 meters, we saw that the beach was suddenly relatively empty, and also relatively flat. It was about 96 degrees in the shade and nearly 2:00, so we just stopped there instead. We had our own patch of beach to ourselves, with a very long tide coming in slowly. It was great.
A lot of people who live in Tokyo don’t like to go to Kamakura, because they say ‘it’s dirty’. This has to be taken from the source, since Japan’s streets are some of the cleanest, and you could probably eat off the floor of its trains. But maybe, since the water isn’t ‘Okinawa blue’, that’s what they mean. It’s more of an Ocean City/Coney Island color. Kind of a greenish-blue. But it’s still relatively clear.
The color’s not something that would ever bother me. Heat bothers me. A lack of central AC in my home (even though I understand COMPLETELY why we don’t have it) bothers me. Getting a negative review from a student because I had dandruff (true story) bothers me. But the water at the beach not being blue enough? It could never.
It’s one of those beaches that would be PERFECT for filming a movie where people are sitting at the edge of the water while the waves roll in, soaking them, and they coolly look at the camera as if to say ‘I’m sitting here because I was expecting that to happen’. The beach seemed to go on forever. And it was so nice that it was SO empty.
We learned later that the reason *our* beach was empty, even though it was a mere 400 meters away from the crowded beach, is because that beach is the ‘couples and families’ beach. The beach that was more crowded is more commonly known as the ‘singles’ beach. So, we did the right thing, almost instinctively.
The beach being so long wasn’t as good a thing as it looked, though, since it turned out that the tide was *actually* coming in. We made the mistake around 2 hours in of both laying on our stomachs, with our heads facing away from the water, and it was then that the tide finally reached us, soaking everything we had. Shit went down. It became a catastrophe for about 5 minutes, as we pulled all of our things back and cursed a bit. Then we spent the next 10 minutes or so wringing out all of our things, and figuring out how we were going to get 2 beach towels, soaking and heavy, back home.
It might have seemed like a bad thing, and it was totally shitty that Mark ended up with 2 soaked beach towels in his bag which were really heavy for the rest of our day, but it DID mean that we were kept cool by our damp clothing on a very hot day. Also, Mark had the new waterproof bag we just got, so it’s not like anything was ruined. All we’d brought with us were the towels, sunblock, and a comb. So I can’t see it as a totally bad thing. In fact, next time I go, if it’s still this hot, I might just dip my clothes into the sea for fun, so I can stay cool. It helped a lot.
After getting totally drenched, we went back to the top of the beach and got some drinks at one of the many beach-side bars lined up just before the road and bike path. We didn’t quite care which one we went to, and only chose the one we ended up in since it had an English sign that we could read. We each had one kind-of-overpriced drink, and then it was almost time to go, since we’d only rented the bikes for 3 hours.
We rode back up towards the station and bike rental shop, making a quick stop (like 20 minutes, tops) at a burrito and taco spot we found last time, called Copen Local Base Kamakura. We’re pretty sure this is actually just a car shop that serves delicious Mexican food, but can’t be sure because we’ve never asked. But we knew it would be quick, delicious and not too terribly expensive. BURRITOS! Once you live in a place where you can’t readily get a damn burrito every 5 miles, they start to become a little… precious.
Our plan after returning the bikes was to head up to the shrine, since we’ve never been there before. This meant we had to walk up the shopping street. It wasn’t nearly as full of people as the last time we came, so it was a nice walk this time around. We stopped and looked in a few shops, bought me a new bracelet, tried on some hats, and slowly made our way up the road, just as the sun was starting to sink. Sunset here is currently about 6:30 pm, and fading fast, btw.
The shrine is located in the center of Kamakura, and I’ve never been on the other side, unless we count the long walk we took the first time we visited Kamakura, when we walked from the train station just before the main Kamakura one, to see all of the shrines. But after 4 or 5 of them, we got on a bus and just went to the station. TOO HOT!
From the main station, it’s maybe a 5-block walk to get to the shrine, if you’re counting. But with all of the shops to stop and look in, who cares? As soon as the shops stopped, we turned a corner, and there was the entrance to the shrine.
The shrine itself was under construction, so the photos weren’t so good. But we climbed all of the stairs and walked around, and then made our way back down.
I stopped to take plenty of pictures, of course, and wished I’d brought my digital camera. We talked about which camera I’d be buying next, since we have a lot of travel coming up and I refuse to use the older Coolpix, which is starting to get finicky with me. Time to replace ALL TEH NIKONS.
I’m feeling ok about the photos I took today, though, since I know we’ll be back in about a month with our friend, and by then I’ll probably have the new camera:)
There was a big pond that went along the front entrance to the shrine, and branched off to either side, with some smaller shrines on either side of it. We’re not entirely certain what all of them were for, but it was nice to be there at that time of day, watching the sun set over the water lilies and reflecting in the water.
After that, we made our way back down the shopping street, and watched the shades and gates being closed down as the shops shut for the evening. It was just about 5:30 when this started. I know that over time, the shopping streets all tend to be the same and blend into each other, but I’m enjoying being in that place now where they’re all still new and interesting.
Mark bought some beers, and I got a cider, which was decidedly just a little too sweet. Not bad, but sweet.
The beers had names like ‘Kamakura flower’ and ‘Kamakura star’, and so on. Since I’m not into beer, I have no idea how they taste, but Mark seems to think they’re good.
Then we meandered back to the station, got on the train, and headed back to our lives in the big city.
We don’t need the perfect days. We don’t need the perfect experiences. I think a lot of our strength sometimes comes from the things we’ve already been through, together, which prove that we can get through anything as long as we have each other.