It’s a beautiful morning when we awake from our neon-infused Akihabara dreams… Except, it’s closer to midday. Shit!
We throw ourselves together and make haste to Tamachi Station. As we fly through the turnstiles we find a train waiting at the platform ready to take us to Shinagawa Station, where we can change from the Yamanote Line over to the Yokosuka Line.
At the end of that line? The sea-side retreats of Kamakura and Enoshima.
After an hour on trains we arrive at Kamakura Station. Very hungry. Very hot. We head straight down the main tourist street, looking for drinks and hats to give us some reprieve from the burning sun.
While Lawson (hail Lawson!) fixes us up temporarily we need something more substantial to fuel us for the busy day ahead. The heat is melting our patience with each other and our jetlag is still stronk.
Pizza, fries and chicken wings for breakfast? Sure! Thanks, AWkitchen Garden.
The restaurant has an outdoor garden that wedges right into a junction where the road crosses train line. We choose a table close to the junction and enjoy our meal as the ding-ding-ding of the crossing barrier is followed by the rumbling cacophony of tram cars whisking tourists towards Enoden along the Enoshima Electric Railway.
Damn, Kamakura has charm. In spades.
No more do we notice this than in the long partially-shaded walk we opt for in the potentially sunburn searing heat of the afternoon.
While I’m not a world traveller by any means, I do feel there’s something magical about walking around Japan that people can’t help but love. If only I were a writer perhaps I could articulate these feelings in a meaningful way…
Quirky sights everywhere.
A busy three road intersection crossing that is overlooked by six Jizo statues that marked an execution ground? An ancient looking tree sitting atop a short wall alongside three gravestone markers and two vending machines? Japan just does it.
Why am I so attracted to distant stairways anyway?
With it’s relentless and oppressive heat our God is most definitely the sun at this point. Time to pray.
We burnt a load of time by choosing to walk through Yuigahama on our way to Kōtoku-in. While I don’t for one minute regret our decision to walk through Kamakura, we did actually pass relatively close to two stations which could have saved us time. Good to know for future trips.
The day was fast progressing and so we arrived at Kōtoku-in late. Luckily at that time, it wasn’t too busy. We could enjoy our stroll around the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in the country while snapping a few pictures without a throng of fellow travellers.
However, something about holding a baby brings out the best in people and I was soon mobbed by waves of kawaii-cooing strangers asking me to know how young my daughter was, as they revealed their true desire to squeeze her tiny hands and feet.
I think of how in England this type of interaction can get annoying because there it’s mostly the scruffiest, weirdest people who approach us, poking their fingers in my beloved babe. That or someone just taking the opportunity to concern-troll mine or my partners’ choices. “He looks freezing”, oh, does she, really?
Not in Japan though. Only compliments, genuine smiles and honest interest. “Thank you people of Japan”, I think to myself. “Thank you giant metal Buddha.”
The heat was getting to me – I’d become delirious.
It’s not just the people though. Japan is different in so many ways. For example, the gardens in Kamakura are great. Both the ones in the temples and those outsides peoples homes.
It just seems like this culture cares about the tiny details as much as it cares about the larger whole. The environment is cared for. People are generally polite and respectful to each other. Living and non-living things are treated with care. People follow the rules so as not to cause each other problems. There’s a sense of community which brings with it a feeling of safety and order.
I’m sure there are problems with the culture, of course. Perfection is an impossibility. But did I mention how clean this place is?
In the rush to make the next train my partner got herself stuck trackside of the barriers at Hase Station. Sadly due to this little misdemeanour, I didn’t get a chance to get any good footage of the trains as they pulled into the station.
However, the video above is the one that actually made us add Kamakura and Enoshima to our itinerary in the first place, so hit that play button for all that tram-hyped goodness.
The electric railway lives up to the hype as we wind and slice our way towards Enoden. Splitting gardens, roads and cliffside before skimming alongside a coastal road and the various seafront sights.
When we finally arrive at Enoshima we cherish the low hanging evening sun while lapping up chocolate and lemon flavoured ice creams. The perfect treat after the long walk down from Enoshima Station and across Enoshima Benten Bridge. It’s cooling down now which is a nice walk itself.
The moon hung above the island as the sun set over Mt.Fuji. While we missed a lot of the stalls on our way up to the temple we were actually right on time for an excellent scene.
Our time was tight. Refreshed, we made our way towards Enoshima Sea Candle at the top of the island, which is a lighthouse with an observation deck, whilst trying to soak up as many of the sights we could in what time we had left.
The first thing you see as the street ends is the impressive Enoshima Shrine which sits on the side of the hill. We chose not to inspect it closer but instead chose to pay a small fee to use the Enoshima Escar, a series of outdoor escalators that offered to help us skip up to the peak faster.
As we were in a hurry, and since most of the Shinto shrines were closed at this point, we rushed up the paths between one escalator and the next. Though, since the escalators maybe didn’t save us so much time I would recommend using both the escalator and the regular route up the steps, which, as I write this, is lined by over 1000 lanterns!
At the highest point of the island sits the lighthouse, which is situated inside the grounds of the Samuel Cocking Garden. It was getting dark at this point as the sun was only a slither on the horizon, but the beauty of the garden could still be easily appreciated even at dusk.
The Sea Candle itself sits proudly at the back of the garden and the lighting used to illuminate its structure really sets a great atmosphere.
As we approached the tower, the sun fell fast and we were greeted by the ambient glow of the lighthouse. We again chose the shortcut and took the elevator to the viewing platform. From here you can enjoy a 360-degree view of Kamakura, and beyond!
My partner was not satisfied with the view from the observation deck alone and wanted to see more, so we climbed the spiral staircase out onto the roof. This turned out to be an excellent decision as the view was even more breathtaking from the higher level. The cool, crisp sea air was a welcome addition.
As I think back, this was one of my favourite moments of the trip.
After we had had our fill we made our way back down the tower and was surprised to see the garden had taken on another appearance. The spotlights in the garden highlighted some of its best features and cast a romantic glow, which brought out the vivid and varied colours of the surrounding flora.
For the first time that day we felt less rushed and so we took a moment to enjoy our surroundings and let the kids relax and play.
The escalators only take you up to the gardens, so we had to trundle back down the stairs. It was good to see what we had missed and we also got to look out across Miami Beach and notice some nice features we hadn’t spotted in our race to the top.
The darkness really brought some of the smaller details to life such as the beaming white light of the many Mitsuuroko symbols that adorn the stone pillars around the shrines, or the warm mosaic glow of an owl lantern in a shop window.
The contrast between places at different times of the day seems more apparent and interesting in Japan. Maybe its because I spent the time paying more attention to the things around me.
Maybe its just because these places are truly wondrous.
We took a shortcut back to Tokyo by using the Shonan Monorail from Shonan-Enoshima Station back to Ōfuna Station. The place itself begged to be explored but unfortunately, with two very tired kids and two pairs of very tired adult arms and legs, we had to get back.
We had to be up early the next day to cash in our JRPass so we could catch the Shinkansen (‘bullet train‘) from Tokyo Station, for the second leg of our adventure – the beautiful, the historic, Kyoto.
I’ll always remember that view though…