Saturday, June 01, 2013
Japan - Kamakura & Yokohama
My next day tour was to Kamakura and Yokohama. Chose this because I know of the existence of the great Buddha in Kamakura. I think I knew it since some time ago, but it could also be because President Obama visited it a few years ago and it made the news and I was so captivated by it. The drill was the same, wait for pick up in the hotel and then go to the bus station where we would be sorted out into our tours. I managed to get breakfast easily that day since I woke up earlier. As I was waiting to be picked, an Indonesian voice greeted me. It was the husband of the young couple who were talking to the 2 Indonesian girls the day before. We chatted a bit. I thought they're newlywed on their honeymoon, but it turned out they already have 3 kids! The wife is just one of those hot mama. We also found out that we live nearby in Jakarta, them in Roxy and me in Tomang. Unfortunately they weren't going for the same tour as me that day. It was pretty nice talking to them. Perhaps also because we're from Jakarta so there's just this some sort of way of speaking that connect us straight away :P I talked a bit about what I had been seeing in Japan. I asked if they're Buddhist, which they are. So I was telling them about the nice temples I've been seeing and my trip for the day. Unfortunately, they didn't have plan to explore much. They're just staying in Tokyo and I think they're leaving a day before me. We parted ways when we had to go to our actual buses and I didn't see them again.
The day was rather cloudy that morning and by the time the bus left Tokyo, it was drizzling. Apparently the forecast said it was to rain the whole day. What a bummer :( The weather really screwed us up that day. I got a second to last seat at the back. When I found out, I didn't like it much, but I got window seat and noone was sitting next to me, yay! Also for some reason, I had really big leg space, double yay! Behind me was this french family with a 4-year boy. On our first stop, I decided to ask the boy what his name was and he didn't respond and just looked at me. Aarrgghh, that made me real self conscious :( I think my french is bad but I think I can pronounce "comment tu t-appelles?" correctly. I have to admit that I had to google how to spell that and darn I forget my conjugation!!! The dad then asked him to respond. So the dad understood me and the rather talkative boy just went all shy when I asked him. His name is Clément and he's really cute, curly blondie hair. I tried to talk to him again before we finished the tour. By then I was already too tired and didn't really get what he's saying. I just asked, "tu n'es pas fatigué?" (you're not tired? He was pretty noisy in the last hour when everyone was dead tired) and he said, non, in a very mignon (cute) way. I said, "incroyable" (incredible) and that got his parents laughing. I really wish I can speak French better :( Italian too. By the way Clément is a rather nice name if you pronounce it in french :D
Back to the trip. So we had rain. First stop was Kōtoku-in
in Kamakura, where the great Buddha is. Well actually first stop was to get everyone umbrella. Initially I was rather apprehensive if I should get an umbrella but everyone got one and so I got one too, a cute transparent one which I managed to bring back to Singapore (ANA handled it really nicely for me, gotta love the Japanese). It was a very good buy since the rain never stops :( I felt so blessed being able to see the great Buddha. Although I couldn't help thinking that when President Obama visited it, it wasn't raining and there weren't any tourists. It's so different when you're the president. The rain was really a bummer. You can go inside the Buddha, but I didn't. There's nothing much in the temple, except for the Buddha. There's a giant sandals which may give you a scale on how big the Buddha is. I do want to visit it again, under a different situation where the sun is shining and the sky is blue.
Next stop was Hase-dera temple which is perhaps my favorite temple visited in Japan. There are many beautiful ones, especially in Kyoto, which is the city I love the most from my trip. However Hase-dera in Kamakura is like an all-in-one greatness. Beautiful gardens with pond, check. The picture below shows one part of the garden and do you notice the bamboos they use to funnel the water into the pond? Ingenious and beautiful!
Continuing with the check list, amazing and big Buddha statues, check, although people cannot take photograph of them, so I cannot show you anything. I just remember them being golden. Being able to pray in the temple, check. I picked up a purple joss stick even though I was thinking I would choose a different colours. My hand just chose purple. I wonder if the colours have meaning. Cute little Buddha statues, check, check, check, you can see this
, and this
. A little cave to explore with more Buddha statues, check, although I didn't go all the way in because I didn't have time :( It's really truly a wonderful place and it's unfortunate that I couldn't spend more time there as my heart's content. Hope one day I get to come back again.
Next stop was the shrine Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū. The rain was getting heavier that I didn't feel like exploring much. I did take the stairs up, but I decided I should just go down before the steps got more slippery. It turned out there's a wedding at the platform below and so I spent some time watching the ceremony. It's pretty low key. There were only immediate family at the ceremony. Interesting. By the way, it turns out the Japanese usually go to a Shinto shrine for weddings and then a Buddhist temple for funeral. I like how they don't feel conflicted with so called 2 different religions. It makes me feel better about my mix take on religions as well. Here's a picture of the ceremony, you can see the heavy rain. The bride is on the left with the white hood and the groom is on the right.
After that, we headed to Yokohama. First stop was lunch in a Chinese restaurant simply because Yokohama has the biggest Chinatown in Japan. Lunch wasn't good and for something Chinese, it's weird that we didn't get rice. Again I was seated at the single table. Sat next to a lady from America whose name I didn't even bother to ask. I am so bad and I regretted myself fully. When we were in Hase-dera, we took turns taking each other picture and she said we could partner up and do that for each other since we're alone. However I kinda didn't bother to do things with her. I am so bad, I know. After lunch, I found out a bit more of her story. She used to travel with her husband, but then her husband died of cancer. After that she decided to just continue on with the traveling and when she arrives somewhere and see something wonderful, she'll go, "Jay, I'm here". Yeah I didn't know her name and yet I know her husband's name. It was a moving story for me and thank goodness I didn't cry. I was rather speechless hearing her talk about his husband getting cancer, but maybe it's been sometime that she appeared really strong about it. Really nice lady and I'm really sorry I wasn't nicer to her :( Aside from her, I also talked a bit to the Singaporean guy who was alone too. I guess having to release some of my singlish did feel rather good.
After lunch, the rain was getting heavier. The guide made a decision that we should go to Sankei-en Garden first before it closed. We arrived and the rain was pouring. Some of the the people made the decision that they would just stay in the bus. I have to give it to the guide. She went down and was ready for us. I think if she didn't go down and just let us explore on our own, not many of us would go down. Seeing her going down, I felt like we should also go down to show our appreciation. I get it though if people would rather stay in the bus. Clément and his dad stayed in the bus and only his mom went down. It was rather crazy, being a tourist in the middle of the rain. I was glad to have my so-called comrades. It made me feel good that I wasn't alone in that craziness :P The whole thing was walking fast and taking pictures at the same time. I actually managed to take some not so bad pictures with only 1 hand, since my other hand was holding the umbrella. Some of the pictures that didn't have water drop on them looked not so bad. The rain gave them a really soft look. The garden was beautiful and I wonder if I thought it's beautiful because of the rain, now that I think about it. The rain gave it a really different feel. This is a picture of the boat in the pond. At the end of the boat, the little white thing, is a crane statue. It didn't appear as cheesy as it may seem :P Again maybe because of the rain.
After that was a small stop to Yokohama's Chinatown. I contemplated if I should go down. In the end I did because I wanted to get some drink. Due to the rain, I didn't walk far and seeing how everything was so Chinese, I was feeling it was all too ordinary. I mean, this is one of the picture I took, just because I ran out of interesting things to take picture of, and this is pretty much easy to find in Singapore.
It's perhaps more interesting without the rain, because we may actually get to explore more things. It seems there might be a temple nearby. Anyways, after that it was the ride home. It felt like a really log day. Clément was pretty noisy during the ride home and I was tired :( Was glad to reached Tokyo. Stupid me decided to take a different way from what I took the day before to reach my hotel and again I was lost. It got really scary. It was a Saturday night and the area where I was is the office buildings area of Shinjuku and it was quiet on a Saturday night. The streets were empty and it was dark and there's not many people and I found an exit which should bring me to my hotel but it was closed, so I was bouncing here and there trying to find my way and find whatever map I could find, and it was rather dark! At one point I found an open area under a building, like a parking lot with many homeless people and I got really scared. I tried to find a safer way. Found a security guard of a building who confirmed I had to cross that area to reach my hotel. It was so scary. I don't know in what kind of situation I would be okay in dealing with many homeless people. I do think the Singapore influence in me kinda makes me mentally unprepared about this whole thing. You can hardly find a homeless person in Singapore. Perhaps they exist. Perhaps they're like unicorn, I don't know. There are homeless people in Jakarta which I often see but even then, seeing a whole parking lot filled with these people was overwhelming for me. They do seem harmless and they were so organized. The Japanese culture is still visible in them. They "parked" themselves like cars. It was so orderly, there was equal space one among the others. I even saw someone reading, like it's a normal bedtime reading time. Maybe people will not believe me if I tell this story, like they can't believe it's happening in a really developed, rich, and strong country like Japan and I was too scared to take any picture as evidence. I don't think it's right to do so anyway. I just walked as fast as I could and tried my best to not make any eye contact and kept on repeating, "please God help me". Seriously, in all of my trips, this was the scariest experience I had. Although there was no imminent danger, I was really scared and I was praying hard for God to help me. Thank God it was just a straight walk from that "homeless lot" all the way to my hotel. I was so relieved and I was so thankful and I'm still really thankful to God. I don't know why, Shinjuku just beats my ass each time, each time! I will tell you a sillier story of how I got back the next day from my last day tour.
The homeless situation got me googling about it. It turns out, though they're homeless, they are at their cores real Japanese. So these people would clear themselves out on day break and just become invisible. Although I did see 1 or 2 on the streets during the day. It's like they understand that they shouldn't make people feel uncomfortable with their presence during the day. I find it rather amazing. Another reason why I should see more of the world. It's surprising for me to see so many homeless people in a city like Tokyo. Singapore is perhaps one of those rare city where it can be so developed and also managed to remove all traces of poverty. Another reason why I also feel like Singapore is such a bubble who shelters its inhabitants from unpleasing things which weaken its people sometime. It's like living in such a sterile environment that when you encounter a little germ, your body doesn't know how to deal with it. How I wish I was not that scared in seeing so many homeless people, how I wish I was stronger mentally :(
I'll end this story here. To see the picture from Kamakura, please go here
and for pictures from Yokohama, please go here
:) eKa @ 10:54:00 PM •