03 Aug 2014 Day 7: Tokyo apartment & Kamakura/Enoshima
Tokyo airBnB apartment
We exited Yoyogi station and a straight walk from the exit took us to the building in which we had booked an apartment. This was our first time using airbnb for accommodation so we were a little nervous. We took the elevator up to the seventh floor and were instructed that the apartment door would be unlocked with the keys being left inside. Yup, Japan really must have a low crime rate. I suspected the two people in the entrance by the mail boxes may have been the host. We entered the apartment and were glad to find the place extremely clean and exactly as listed. We had two bedrooms, kitchen, dining, bathroom and a washing machine. The host had made a list of instructions for how to use things and how to sort the rubbish. The apartment gave us more room, a chance to prepare our own meals and came at a cost much less than we would have paid at a hotel.
We had a day left on our 7-day JR pass and although we had already made it pay off, we thought we would use it for a day trip to Kamakura and Enoshima. We left the apartment just before 9am and had chosen a route that only required one transfer, however we ended up having to transfer twice. We went from Yoyogi station to Shinagawa station and somehow miss-read signs and ended up on the wrong side of the platform, missing our train. So we then took another train to Totsuka station to meet the train we missed and get to Kamakura.
Once at Kamakura station we decided to walk to Kotoku-in temple to view The Great Budha statue. Outside of the station a man was handing out area maps so I went and got an English version. It was a 1.7 km walk from the station to the temple. Along the way Fletcher got tired so we reclined the stroller and slowed our walking pace down. He still wasn’t quite asleep when we reached the temple, so we had to take turns pushing the stroller around while the other looked at The Great Budha. The Great Budha of Kamakura is the second largest Budha statue in Japan, behind the statue in Nara’s Todaiji Temple. Kamakura’s bronze Budha is just over 13 metres tall. It was originally located inside a temple building but over time the building was destroyed by typhoons and a tidal wave. The Great Budha was cast in 1252 and has stood alone in the open air since 1495. I enjoyed viewing this large Budha statue more than the one in Todaiji temple, I think it was impressive because it stood alone and being in the open meant it was easier to get a good view of the statue.
After viewing The Great Budha, we walked to Hase Temple (Hasedera). When we got there we realised it wouldn’t be possible to enter the grounds while Fletcher was sleeping in the stroller, just beyond the entrance was a large set of stairs. We decided to walk back to a stall we had passed and buy a cup of hot garlic potato chips they were selling. They had smelled delicious and after waiting for them to be freshly cooked we found out they really were as good as they smelt.
With Fletcher sleeping, we strolled around and got a little lost before finding our way and heading towards Tsuragaoka Hachimangu. When Fletcher woke up we got some lunch from a supermarket and ate on a bench seat. We then followed the path to the shrine which was marked by a large torii gate. Fletcher was now ready to stretch his legs and this was a good place to do so as it was separated from any traffic. We walked along and came across tiny dogs in costumes.
As we got closer to the shrine we saw people dressed up in Kimonos and suits and a lot of them had children that were in traditional dress. After crossing the road onto the shrine grounds we saw a Shinto wedding party having photos taken.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu was founded in 1063 and enlarged and moved to its current site in 1180. It is Kamakura’s most important shrine. The main hall sits up on top of a large staircase. Before making our way up to the main hall, we wandered along the left of the shrine, viewing a display of impressive bonsai plants.
It was a slow climb up the steps as Fletcher insisted on getting up all by himself. Standing at the top in front of the main hall gives a view of the Maiden down below as well as the torii gates that are spread along the approach to the shrine. The Maiden, which is located at the bottom of the staircase, is a stage used for performances and dances. On our way out the wedding party were seated inside with guests gathered around the outside.
After Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, we made our way to Kamakura station where we took a tram-like railway to Enoshima Station. From the station we walked across the long bridge onto the island. The beach area below didn’t look very attractive with piles of seaweed and a dark dirty coloured sand. It was however October, so well outside of beach season. The beaches around Enoshima are popular spots and become crowded with Japanese people taking a break during the summer months. We got to the end of the bridge and walked up the hill towards Enoshima shrine. We found the entrance to the elevators but thought by the time we did something, walked back to Enoshima station, got a train to Kamakura then training it to Yoyogi station, it would make it a long day. We walked back down, stopping to browse in some of the stores. I bought a cheap turtle bubble blower for Fletcher and an ice-cream that he finished off while we walked back to Enoshima station.
The ride to Kamakura station was very cramped and uncomfortable. On our journey back to Yoyogi station, Fletcher was getting cranky, so we gave him the iPad and headphones. This was the first time we had done so and afterwards wondered why it had taken us so long. It meant we had a stress free journey back without having to try keep him happy and not bother other commuters. We made it into Yoyogi station at about 6pm, picking up some dinner from the konbini (convenience store) on our way to the apartment.
I had big expectations of a day trip to Kamakura and Enoshima during the trip planning. There were so many ancient sights around Kamakura and it gave the impression of having a lovely charm. Unfortunately my expectations weren’t met. In place of small town charm, Kamakura was overcrowded and very touristy. As Fletcher was sleeping in the stroller we were limited as to what we could do. We only seen two main sights and although I did enjoy both, I had been hoping to visit some of the lesser known sights of Kamakura. We should have made our way to one of them instead of heading to Enoshima as by the time we got there, we ended up turning around and going back. There just wasn’t enough time in the day to take in what this area has to offer.