United Airlines SAN to SFO
Hyatt Regency SFO
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ANA First Square SFO to NRT
Park Hyatt Tokyo Park View Room
Kamakura and the Great Buddha
Thai Airways First Class on the A380
Best Western Premier Amaranth Suvarnabhumi Airport
Royal Orchid Lounge and Spa at Bangkok
Thai Airways Business Class BKK to CGK
The weather was rainy and cloudy on the day I was in Tokyo, and it gave me the idea of escaping the city to the suburbs of Tokyo in the hope that the weather would be better. With that in mind I picked Kamakura, an ancient capital of Japan as the destination and bought the Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass from Odakyu which has direct rail services from Shinjuku Station. However the day remained equally rainy or cloudy in Kamakura, but at just ¥1,430 (approx. US$15) per person, it was actually pretty cheap to enjoy a day of sightseeing in the outskirts of the city.
My journey began as I boarded the Odakyu Rapid Express service from Shinjuku and arrived at the Katase-Enoshima station on a journey that takes about 65 minutes. There is supposedly a limited express Romance-car with reserved seating that one could board for an additional fee. My first stop in Katase-Enoshima was the beach which was a short walk from the station. While it was rainy, cloudy and generally cold, there was a lot of surfers enjoying the waves. It is always fun to see surfers enjoying the waves, similar to my past visit to Manly Beach in Sydney, and surfers could definitely head towards this part of Japan for good waves.
For lunch, I chose to enjoy it in Enoshima-Koya 江ノ島小屋, a nice restaurant by the seaside that serves seasonal freshly caught fish off the coast of Enoshima. While the restaurant does not have an English menu, the servers were trying as hard as possible to help me with the order, and I eventually picked a bowl of mixed raw fish served over rice topped with seaweed. The fish was marinated with some sauces and garnished with onions and wasabi. There was also a bowl of soup on the side. To end the meal, I ordered a Kuromitsu crème brûlée but this dessert was quite disappointing since it tasted like normal crème brûlée. I would totally skip dessert here as the restaurant provides some tasty dried fruit snacks at the cashier upon paying for your meal.
From the restaurant I had to cross the bridge to get to Enoshima Station and by this time, the weather was getting even worse with heavier rain. Fortunately, there was good signage and maps of the city strategically placed for tourists and I followed a small pathway to reach Enoshima station where I would board the Enoden or Enoshima Electric Railway which is a classic old electric railway that provides great views of the coastline between Enoshima and Kamakura. Taking the Enoden between Enoshima and Kamakura was probably one of the highlight of my visit to Kamakura.
The sights that I wanted to visit in Kamakura, though was located closer to Hase 長谷 station where I disembarked and walked to Hase-dera 長谷寺 which was a sight recommended to me by the flight attendant onboard ANA. This temple is famed for having the largest wooden statue of Buddha in Japan but during the time I visited, the blooming hydrangeas were probably the nicest attraction in the temple. There was even a long line of procession to walk through the hydrangea path in the temple.
The temple is also famous for the Jizo shrine where there are numerous small Jizo figurines laid out by parents dedicating them for their unborn children lost in miscarriage or abortion. Another feature to enjoy is the gardens at the entrance of the temple and the views from the viewing platform which provided a panoramic vista of the town and the bay. Throughout my visit to the temple, it was drizzling but the foliage provided some shelter. However there are steps to climb in the temple especially when taking the path to view the hydrangea. This means it is essential for visitors to wear good walking shoes or even hiking boots if they intend to visit on a rainy day as it can be slippery.
At the end of the hydrangea path, there is a pavilion amidst a small bamboo grove which can be a resting place at the end of the long walk. The pavilion also houses buddhist scriptures if I am not mistaken. From the pavilion, it is another 10 minute walk down towards the main gate of the temple, and this this can act as a halfway point when completing the visit to the temple.
From Hase-dera, it is another 5-10 minute walk to the Kotokuin Temple which houses the Daibutsu or Great Buddha Statue. The Great Buddha is symbolic as the grandeur of Kamakura at one point in time in Japan’s history. However, the temple today with the outdoor Great Buddha statue seems a bit desolate with just the statue remaining to be the main attraction. With that I wrapped up my time in Kamakura as I took the train from Hase to Kamakura and back to Enoshima. Being one of the last trains back, there was a large crowd taking the train and it was not easy to get a seat, so I would advise travellers to take the earlier trains back if possible.
Overall, Kamakura is probably worth a visit to enjoy the beaches and gardens of Hase-dera especially if one does not have the time to travel all the way to Kyoto. With its location being very easily accessible from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, this small town has a nice set of attractions that provides travellers an introduction to Japanese history, culture and religion.