Japan trip: Kamakura and Yokohama fireworks gala!

Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude towards Chihaya san, who is the guide and friend I could ever wish for. ちはやしゃん!本当にありがとうございます!鎌倉と花火大会はとてもとてもたのしかった!!!ずっと忘れません。日本に来てよかったvvv
Unfortunately, she has requested me not to show her face on this blog. ><
 
20 Jul 2008 (Sun)
I had french toast+yogurt+walnut bun set  for breakfast at the hotel’s cafe.
Excellent breakfast! Totally had to drink the coffee straight from the bowl.

Excellent breakfast! Totally had to drink the coffee straight from the bowl.

The weirdest thing is they served capuccino in a soup bowl. And the spoon is totally flat and useless for drinking the coffee.
But it’s delicious, expecially the french toast with the syrup oozing from the outside and inside.
Chihaya san came to my hotel in Shinjuku and brought me to Kamakura via JR. It was a quaint town with many traditional houses and foods sold on the streets. Many japanese tourists also visit Kamakura for the sightseeing and the food!!!

First, we walked through the Komachi dori Street filled with shops selling freshly toasted senbei crackers, ice cream, warabi mochi (cool fern jellies dusted in kinako), ume products (preserved plum), croquette and all kinds of souvenirs.

Hachimitsu Ice cream in my hand.

Hachimitsu Ice cream in my hand.

It’s a perfectly hot afternoon as we strolled towards Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. It’s so hot, a cat just slept under a bush by the side of the road as if it were dead. And many ladies were crowding around it taking pictures of this dozing feline. Ah, nyanko love…
Pig Man!豚人!
Munching, smelling and tasting warabi mochi, and as we walked on, finally, the red shrine came into view.
The road junction leading to the shrine.

The road junction leading to the shrine.

The Shrine itself

The Shrine itself~

The cicadas were just deafening! We climbed up to the shrine and after tossing a coin into the box and clapping, we walked around a bit. There wasn’t much to see at the shrine. Probably that’s why the tourism dept. put *Must See!* on the English brochure. A nice guard recommended us to go to see the Great Seated Buddha in Kotokuin Temple. This means we have to make our way back to the JR station to catch the bus. Hungry, we stopped for some croquette. There’s plain, meat, ume, yuzu(mandarin orange), black sesame and omigod, chocolate.

Check out the menu!!!

The croquette shop: Check out the menu!!!Ume and Yuzu croquettes.

The ume croquette is delicious although the ume bits are sour. The yuzu one reminded me of orange flavored mooncake. It’s quite filling though and we didn’t have a proper lunch.
We caught the bus to Kotokuin Temple from JR station. As the weather was so warm, we could get a bit of a shut eye for 10mins. There are quaint little shops on both sides of the road to see for hardworking travellers.
We reached the place and ooh lala, the great seated Buddha came into view. The highlight of Kamakura.

Trying to meditate like the Buddha behind us but somehow its anatomically impossible.

Trying to meditate like the Buddha behind us but somehow it's anatomically impossible.

We explored the surroundings and had cool drinks from the vending machine at nice little rest area with large flat boulders for seats.

Iced calpis and ume drinks

Iced calpis and ume drinks

Tanka poet, Akiko Yosana

By the 1st fujoushi: Tanka poet, Akiko Yosana

 We found the tablet carved with Tanka poet, Akiko Yosana’s poem. It was composed after she saw the huge statue of the Buddha.

Seems she found the Buddha a ‘美男’ (beautiful male). And I told Chihaya san we’ve finally found the world’s first fuujoshi. (´∀`)

There’s even a pair of warashiki sandals made for him!

The worlds largest foot size

The world's largest foot size. No smell though, haha.

Seriously, the Buddha is such an icon, the Japanese entrepreneurs decide to merge Kamakura’s symbol with other icons. Namely, Hello Kitty and Disney character, Stitch.

Hello Kitty Buddha...

Hello Kitty Buddha...

Buddha Stitch...

Buddha Stitch...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We strolled down to Hasedera temple and personally, I think it’s a nice place to end the day in Kamakura. The garden pools are brimming with koi fishes and flowers.

One of the garden pools. Man not included.

One of the garden pools. Man not included.

The koi were scrambling to get to shore. Im beginning to suspect they are piranhas in disguise.

The koi were scrambling to get to shore. I'm beginning to suspect they are piranhas in disguise.

 

But it’s not just the gardens at the bottom. As we ascended the stone steps, we see lots of stone jizos clustering at the 2nd part of the climb. Chihaya san explained that each stone jizo represents an unborn child that has either been lost by accident or abortion. Eeks. No wonder I saw a jizo with a blue baby’s bib around its neck.

Lots of stone jizos

Lots of stone jizos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I can’t help but take picture of a very ‘sian’ statue. I could almost hear it grumble: “Oh here the tourists come again. What’s there to see? Go away.” Chihaya san added : “Mendou kuse na-” (Troublesome…)

Very bored and grouchy statue.

Very bored and grouchy statue.

We reached the shrine housing the Hase Kannon, the Golden Goddess of Mercy.

The Goddess house.

The Goddess' house.

The towering statue is almost 2 stories high, with a long and exquisite necklace draped around her neck and chest. And of course she gleams in the dark with all the gold and bronze. Too bad photography is prohibited.
Chihaya and I went to scale the tip of the hill and although it killed my calves, the scenery and cool breeze is worth the pain.

Overlooking Kamakura beach.Watch out for eagles and windsurfers!

Overlooking Kamakura beach.Watch out for eagles and windsurfers!

We descended the hill back to the garden pools where we started. There’s lots of fragrant lilies on the side.

Smells good!!!

Smells good!!! But I prefer BL. (寒い...)

And at the bottom near the toilet was this strange tree..

Nice cubby hole to stay in...

Nice cubby hole to stay in...

 

 

 

We saw this guy as we headed the dark tunnels where the different types of jizos reside.

Hes very popular with the ladies. We had to queue to get our turn.

He's very popular with the ladies. We had to queue to get our turn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the dark and low tunnels, there’s money jizo, which got the most candle offerings, safety jizo…et cetera. A little scary with its dark, moist and claustrophobic environment but otherwise it’s worth a try.

Off we went for Yokohama for a fireworks gala at the park. On the way, at Kamakura station, we saw the commemorative train for the 40th anniversary of Shonen Jump comics.

Ichigo is on the train!!!

Ichigo is on the train!!!

The ride to Yokohama is a super squeeze. I’ve gotten squeezed to the point I could stand without holding onto anything. Plus in summer, people sweat. And my dress has probably absorbed the sweat of Japan in one day. The crowd is so huge and all are rushing to grab a nice spot before the fireworks gala starts.

Squeezed in a train section for women... with the men.

Squeezed in a train section for women... with the men.

Just look at the human mass!!! Im amazed the escalators could still move!

Just look at the human mass!!! I'm amazed the escalators could still move!

Kiasuism knows no boundaries.
We arrived at the park where the police are starting to move the crowd around. We were very lucky to find a spot at the perimeter of the park. However, we’d wished someone could cut down the trees which were blocking the view.

The Fireworks gala site.

The 53rd Fireworks gala at Yokohama

The wrappers are so cute. The buns are so filling it makes our Da Bao look like Xiao Long Bao.

Niku man (Meat buns / Chinese burger): The wrappers are so cute. The buns are so filling it makes our 'Da Bao' look like 'Xiao Long Bao'.

I am perpetually always feeling the urge to go to the loo after last week’s mutton briyani. So it was one of the many terrible urges which makes my head spin that I had to go to a toilet. Luckily the friendly housewife next to us helped to watch after our spots by draping a towel over it while we searched for the loo. The nearest was a cafe where the queue is 10 persons long as everyone is dying to relieve themselves fully before the fireworks start. So I stood there and waited and drank up the menthol ointment with my nose to keep myself conscious. And when my turn came, the urge went away. Fark. As I went back to the park, the police had fenced off the area at the road junction and people were sitting behind the fence waiting for the gala to start. I saw Chihaya san and I went over to her but one of the organisers refused to let me go to her side.
Here’s what I love about Japan’s pacifist side.
The fence is low and made by tying a pole to two traffic cones. I waited till the organiser turn away before I leapt over the tiny fence. I could even mambo under it if I have the time. Seriously, I can’t pull such a thing off in Singapore where the fences are chest high with bars to prevent a hobbit from doing the mambo. And the best thing was they didn’t even bother to chase and pull me back to the other side.
We ate our dinner of niku man and Chinese yakisoba which Chihaya san bought.
And then, the sky grew really dark and the fireworks began.
Hanabi- badly photographed

Hanabi- badly photographed

It’s spectacular,magical,awesome and touching. It is an unforgettable experience which I cannot convey in words the awesomeness of watching the fireworks bloom and explode in a myriad of colors and huge golden showers! I particularly love the continuous bursting of golden showers which stream down like waterfall, bathing the sky in gold dust. And then there’s the fireworks that explode and stream down like meteor showers but each stream suddenly shoot in another direction like a comet changing its mind on where it wants to go. The fireworks were so marvellous I actually felt like crying then. (TwT) I’m so grateful towards Chihaya san for taking me to see the fireworks. ちはやしゃん、ありがとうございます!感動しました!
The way back was quite an experience too. It’s like a mass exodus of people as everyone made their long and tortuous way to the rail stations. There are rows of stalls to cater to the hungry. At the JR, it’s totally crazy! The stairs to the platforms are totally jammed with people! Again we were packed like sardines and I was wedged among 3 sweaty bodies. (–|||) At least I don’t have to hold onto anything. Chihaya san told me the morning rush hour is even worse. At least there is room to breathe here.
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