An indian traveler @ Kamakura, Japan

Kamakura Travel Blog

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The great Buddha

This time the destination was Tokyo (Japan). It is my 3rd trip to this city and always is an exciting adventure for me because its cosmopolite environment, the culture, the food and the people. My trip started at Seattle airport with an unusual delay at the security checkpoint due to a security breach; not less of 300 people was in line waiting for the TSA security screening, was very interesting to see how the whole airport got freeze (not landings or departures) and flight crews (Asiana) in line waiting for TSA personnel. I had to get some Japanese Yens and the guy at the currency exchange Travelex stand was unable to sell those to me because he ran out of Yens and the other location was at the gates area and he couldn’t get in. By the way he offered to me a nice deal; they call it “Currency Return Guarantee”. If you buy the equivalent of US$ 650 or more Travelex offers: a competitive exchange rate, waive commission and services fees and you have up to ninety (90) days to return the Yens at the best rate possible (minimum what you got during the transaction).

Cave entrance at Hase
I also save US$2 because they took my debit card and I had not to take the cash from an ATM.

The flight is quite long 10+ hrs and Northwest flight attendants were not the best this time in fact I hate when flight attendants are rude with passengers just because they don’t speak English. In my case the person sat beside me was an old Japanese man who didn’t speak English. The flight attendant was offering beverages and asked him for his selection, the guy was unable to tell her what he wanted and she just moved away when was very evident that the problem was the language barrier. I don’t speak Japanese but the signs language worked and I asked her for glass of water. Northwest had a Japanese peaking person onboard because several of the announcements were also translated into Japanese however I do not know why the flight attendant didn’t call that person?

Getting into Narita is an experience because it is the 1st point of contact with Japan and its culture, if you go there I recommend you to take the orange buses (Bus limousines) that are reliable and offer the indications in English.

Main Shrine at Hase
My hotel (Hilton Tokyo) was located in Shinjuku-ku neighborhood, Shinjuku is a famous business district in Tokyo. With its skyscrapers and it train/metro station (Shinjuku station) this is a portion of Tokyo that never sleeps. The Hilton is located close to a very nice park which has a very beautiful temple on the side. If you are in town you may want to spend visiting this park, something that you will find out of order is a small homeless village inside the park. I was reading while ago some stories about an in crescendo number of people who lives at cyber coffee shop because they offer beds and restrooms but as a vibrant metropolis this must be normal.

The next day was at the office. 12 hours running from one meeting to another but living the excitement of our open day, the team in Japan is very methodic and experienced organizing large scale events, all the details are covered with precision; for example agenda and venue.

Hase
A colleague adjusted my presentation for me and after his adjustment I learned that: ”… Japanese culture is very well described in terms of “low context culture”.  Japanese people are brought up in MANGA culture and use hydrographic, which by and large are responsible for engraving the habit of skimming rather than really reading what is presented to them.   Audience tends to perceive the slides as PICTURES, so highlighting the stress point works…” 

At night I went to have a dinner at a Sukiyaki restaurant in Shinjuku called “Tori-gen”; I tried this restaurant the last time and it was very good because the restaurant offer is mainly based on chicken prepared on the grill. I had chicken hearts, wings, liver, neck, breast and a delicious Japanese green pepper on the grill. If you are in the area I’ll recommend you to try it because is very good and the best is that it tastes as you are expecting.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine
In my opinion the big challenge with the Japanese food for non Japanese people is expectations, what you see and what you think it will taste is not what you will get. For example I tried some baby crabs and I was expecting a normal seafood taste and what I got was a sweetened seafood taste J. Something funny that I saw during the night was the advertisement of a bar, they have a small display of the spirit and alcohol served and one of the bottles was Ron Zacapa (Guatemalan famous rum); I took a picture and I sent it to my Guatemalan friend Jose Chasjon saying that the run is famous also in Tokyo, he is planning to start his own travel blog and the 1st entry will be about Zacapa.

Next day was my customer event, I meet some colleagues and we moved over Tokyo Conference Center, Shinagawa area to the convention center where the event took place, we just took a train at Shinjuku station and reading about this train/metro station I found that it is the railroad/metro station that moves more people in the world (3.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine
47 M people per day). I spent the day at the convention center and returned to Shinjuku around 9:00 PM. For diner I decided to have some Tempura, there is a nice tempura place called Tsunahachi close to Isetan store which serves a delicious tempura. The place obviously smells a lot (everything there is deep fried) however I recommend you to sit at the bar because the service is very fast and you get your tempura hot.

Sunday was my free day and I debated between stay hanging around in Tokyo or visit Kamakura. Kamakura won and I rented a tour with Sunrise tour. I left Tokyo very early (7:45 PM) and we took a train to Kamakura (around1 hr raid) to the south. Kamakura was the 2nd capital of Japan during the Minamoto Shogun rule.

Hase Temple
In Kamakura I visited three beautiful places: the first stop was the Hase temple, famous for its eleven heads statue; this temple is located at the south of the city and it host a cave, the Kyozo Sutra Archive which is very heavy to move (but legend say that by turning the rinzo 360º, it is said that you can earn the same merit as from reading all the sutras J), other buildings and beautiful gardens.
Hase Temple

Then we moved into the Kamakura Buddha’s park to see the Great Buddha of Kamakura. Just get there is simply amazing, the Buddha is at the center of the park and it is the second largest Buddha in Japan after the great Buddha located at Nara’s prefecture. This Buddha is located outdoor and you can get inside through a very narrow stair. This Buddha is unique because its construction came from public donations and took almost 40 years to complete it. The Buddha is also famous because it survived earthquakes, typhoons and other natural disasters; in fact is outdoor because the temple surrounding it was devastated by an earthquake.

Then the last portion of the walking tour was the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine and the young princess. It is a very small boulevard built by the Shogun to honor his son called Wakamiya-oji dori ; the boulevard is not that long but the architect played with a visual effect by narrowing it at the end which is very interesting.

Hase temple
At the temple we saw a traditional Japanese wedding and a couple prying with a monk. In my way back to the hotel I stopped by Akihabara or “the electric street” as is very well known. Akihabara has not less than 500 shops and all the gadgets that you can imagine, from tiny computers up to sophisticated sound systems. Japan is very expensive and in several areas they lead on technology so be careful and check if whatever you buy works in your town because cell phones (3G technology) or portable TV systems (10 nsec) may not be available in your area.

At night I went to a Turkish restaurant called ÜSKÜDAR that I’ve visited in my previous trip with some colleagues, however I found that the diner’s menu is way better and I had Acile Ezme and Adana Kebabi which are an excellent representation of the Turkish cuisine in my opinion.

Akihabara street
The restaurant is not fancy and in fact it is very small (6-8 tables) and it is located on the 3rd floor of a small business which has 3 other Japanese restaurants. If you want to get there, just look for the Turkish flag.

On Monday, after my work I went to Kappabashi street. This street is located in Asakusa area (famous because its entrance called Kaminarimon, the temples, the pagoda and the Sanja festival in May). Kappabashi has everything you need for a restaurant since wood chopsticks up to commercial ranges. There you can also find the traditional Japanese plastic food; which is very expensive and is gaining sophistication to a level that is very hard to distinguish if it is not real food when you see it at the display.

To eat I had Okonomiyaki at Sometaro restaurant in Asakusa. I had this kind of food in Osaka with some colleagues. The restaurant was a very traditional one because its tatami and the decoration (including the dojo and the building). The difference with Okonomiyaki vs other Japanese food is that you have to cook it yourself over a pan located at the center of your table. I had 3 types of Okonomiyaki (Pork, vegetables and Octopus) and the menu included a drink called Ramune which was very good, it is a sweet drink very similar to a Venezuelan famous drink called “Frescolita”  but transparent and it is served almost chilled. If you have an opportunity try this drink because tastes very good.

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The great Buddha
The great Buddha
Cave entrance at Hase
Cave entrance at Hase
Main Shrine at Hase
Main Shrine at Hase
Hase
Hase
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine
Hase Temple
Hase Temple
Hase Temple
Hase Temple
Hase temple
Hase temple
Akihabara street
Akihabara street
Kamakura Hotels & Accommodations review
Located in Shinjuku, Hilton Tokyo offers a nice alternative if you consider how small is almost everything in Japan. Rooms are very good, the working … read entire review
Kamakura
photo by: poison_dee