Kamakura is a city located in the Kanagawa prefecture south-west of Tokyo. Although it’s only 50 minutes away from Tokyo, you feel miles away in distance and time, with no skyscrapers and bright lights in view.
The main attraction here is the huge seated Buddha, also known as ‘Amida Nyorai.’ Built in the 12th century, the bronze statue survived through a suspected tsunami, which supposedly knocked down the house sheltering the Buddha. It’s a national treasure now and I really enjoyed visiting the statue as well as Kamakura town – to me it felt like traditional Japan with its small streets quaint and full of history! The shrines, beautiful gardens, and the little shops selling everything from Japanese tourist tat to an array of flavoured rice crackers was right up my street! Also, check out those huge lily pads, no idea why there was money thrown into them but of course if it’s bringing me luck, in goes my yen.
Kamakura also hosts several sandy beaches, which I didn’t know until now, but are quite rare in Japan. We went to Yuigahama beach, which wasn’t too far from Kamakura city – you have to take a little local train which was a cute experience. The beach was quite large, but also very windy and many jellyfish were washed up on the shore, but nevertheless it was enjoyable and I’d like to go again! The summer in Japan has been really hot and humid, and if I was closer to a beach I know where I’d be spending my days!
Time is flying, I can’t believe we are in June already and I’m approaching just over two months of living in Japan. It’s getting warm here, and now that I’ve grasped a bit more knowledge about life in Japan, things are getting easier – apart from the job (but hey don’t get me started on that.)
Moving on from my first world problems, I’ve met some really lovely people here, who have made time fly and have helped me with adjusting to a new place, culture, time zone, continent, and unpredictable weather. Speaking of weather, this leads me to the previously unknown world of earthquakes, which I have suddenly experienced. When I first arrived there were a few tremors, which were strange but nothing to freak out about. However, since then, I’ve experienced 3 quite powerful earthquakes, the first one being in Kindergarten, which of course made the clueless gaijin (moi) panic! What the hell am I meant to do with three doe-eyed students looking at me as some sort of authority figure when I’ve never been in an earthquake before!? Luckily someone ran in and told us to get under the table, and the kids were actually giggling about the whole thing, whilst I was gripping the table leg in absolute fear. Thankfully it passed and no one was hurt!
The next unexpected quake happened when I was in the bleetin’ loo; as soon as I felt the floor shake I was out of there, clinging onto the nearest door frame, watching objects in my room sway. And I know what you’re thinking – my Dad already made a joke about me causing the earthquake, but trust me, I couldn’t produce a 7.9 on the Richter scale even if I tried. But hey, I’m just hoping that that’s it for a while and that a big one isn’t lurking around the corner. (I’m talking about earthquakes…)
Anyway, here’s a little update of where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to since the last post!
Commune 246 – Omote Sando
The reason I came here was under the impression that it was going to be one of those amazing food markets that sells great food without the stuff that makes things taste good e.g. gluten/egg/fat. I was wrong, my ‘komugi arerugi’ was still a mystery to the vendors, although I did eat some nice food, and it was a cool place to hang out. It had a little Japanese hipster vibe going on, you know the type that are all about the ‘health foods’ fad that’s circulating our social world right now – but I’m not complaining, food should be celebrated!
I mentioned this city in my previous post, but I hadn’t seen much of it then. I’ve been back since and it’s really cool! The lights, Godzilla, unceasing crowds, irritating J-pop being played on every street corner, anime everywhere and maid and robot cafes, confirmed that the craziness I’ve witnessed of Tokyo on TV was actually real.
By night time I was up for a partay! But every ‘nightclub’ I thought I was walking into was actually a ‘goddess bar’ for the salary men, if you know what I’m talkin’ about (wink wink). But hey I ain’t no fool, if they’re blasting Ariana Grande and there’s pink flowers on the entrance, combined with my scarce knowledge of Kanji, I’m bound to walk right into that trap! Next time I’ll do some research about partying in Shinjuku, as I’d rather avoid the places street sellers advertise me for a ‘very good price’ – it’s all lies. The night ended well though, eating curry in CoCo curry house – which is super cheap and comforting. I can’t lie to ya, I’m in love with the CoCo!
Shinjuku Gyoen Park
Literally a short stroll through Shinjuku, there is this wonderful park which encompasses various gardens, including a traditional Japanese garden which was evidently beautiful! I do love the random parks, shrines and gardens that are hidden amidst the metropolis of Tokyo. The only downside is that they kick you out of these public parks quite early.
Ueno Zoo & Ueno Park
A fun day out, the zoo was massive! Also, I love the view over Ueno park, it’s so pretty. There’s a shrine here too hence the Tori gates, which I love capturing as to me, they seem so traditionally Japanese – unfortunately I’ve never been into a shrine, but I do want to see more! Be careful of cheeky monks giving you a shiny piece of card as a peace offering, then expecting you to give them 10,000 yen in return!
During Golden week I headed to Saitama Prefecture, to see ‘Shiba-zakura’ which translates to ‘pink moss.’ Apparently flower festivals are really good around springtime, so I’m glad I got to see these pink pretties in bloom. The flowers looked amazing! The location, ‘Chichibu’ was very rural and traditional with a little market by the train station selling Japanese delicacies, quite unlike the Yoshinoya I keep munching on. I went with my Japanese partner teacher and her Christian group, who were all so welcoming. It was quite a surreal moment, surrounded by nature in a mountainous district on a little bench, with the group who started playing the guitar and singing hymns – so peaceful! I had a little reflective moment as I thought about how far I’d come literally, and mentally (emosh I know) and I felt grateful for the invitiation into such an intimate setting. how welcoming the group was .
Other than those cool places, I’ve just been chilling in Tokyo and Chiba really, doing regular things; drinking, shopping, going for food, purikura – it’s tiring to cram in seeing touristy sights every weekend, even so, everything still feels new. I still get the wrong trains, I forget that I shouldn’t stuff my face in public, and I question the edibility of many foods whilst walking around the supermarket (which probably won’t change).
Anyway, I’m hoping to see more things while I’m here, such as; watch Sumo wrestling, climb Mount Fuji, attend a tea ceremony, travel more in Japan (Kyoto!), find a nice beach, enjoy Onsen, watch the sunrise from a high tower etc… If you’re reading this and have any suggestions of what to see/do in Japan, let me know!
I can’t believe that one month has passed since moving to Japan. (For a bit of background context, I’ve moved here to work as an English teacher.) I decided to move to Japan first and foremost for the job, but also for personal experience of living in a completely different country, immersing myself in a new culture and of course, just what everyone in their 20s is searching for, a chance to travel.
And so far, what can I say? It’s been a month of highs and lows but I feel proud of myself for pursuing what I wanted to do despite it being so hard. Leaving behind a comfortable life and starting from scratch to make a new one in a place where I have never been before, don’t really know anyone and can’t converse or read in Japanese has been seriously tough, but hey I’m trying my best to settle in.
One major difficulty I’ve faced is being a Coeliac in Japan – I need help! It’s really hard when eating out, as soy sauce sneaks its way into everything. I’ve learnt the kanji for wheat and barley 小麦,大麦 but it’s still a struggle to just pick up a quick snack. I’ve found a few delicious things that I can eat though, including sashimi, sushi, yakitori (without soy sauce) and soba noodles (however, there’s no guarantee that they are 100% gluten free). Luckily, I have a great Mum who sent me a huge parcel of gluten free goodies from home, which has been helpful as I am so sick of eating sticky rice with a tin of tuna shoved on top. I am seriously jealous of everyone who doesn’t have coeliac disease, because there is so much food here that looks and smells great and I can’t touch it!
Anyway, enough about food and being homesick, what’s kept me strong is remembering what I came for – to explore and enjoy the world before a career gets in the way. And there really are some great things I love about Japan! Firstly, the transport; from living in a village in England where the bus runs like twice a day (no joke) to being in a place where trains are so efficient and regular gives me a sense of freedom! Plus, no fumbling for change in the ticket queue, you just swipe your Passmo card and off you go. In Japan they do know how to make life easy and convenient, and I appreciate that they accommodate their working culture very well. There are places to eat in every station, vending machines everywhere and the shops don’t close ridiculously early – yay!
Moving abroad alone means you need to be savvy and careful – and sometimes I fail at this, but I did my research and apparently Japan is one of the safest places in the world. And it is safe, I don’t feel threatened at all when I’m out, and after a night of booze and cringey dancing, I’ve fallen asleep on the train (like a true jap) and nothing has gone missing; people respect that what’s yours is yours. Also, most people are really helpful and go out of their way to help you even though there is a language barrier, which has been really comforting.
Exploring Japan has been really fun too, I’ve been to Tokyo every weekend since being here; there’s so much to see and do!
First stop was Shibuya – famous for its ‘scramble crossing’. I love this place it’s got great restaurants, shops, arcades, izakayas – the list is endless! It’s busy, loud and vibrant and looks even cooler at night! Yoyogi Meji shrine
Japan has many contrasts, and this shrine in the middle of Tokyo is one of them. You get off the train at Harajuku (a bustling area full of shops) and go on a short walk to this huge shrine, which is surrounded by nature. It had a really calming atmosphere when walking through, I was feeling all zen afterwards and for a moment you forgot I was in concrete jungle. Hanami at Ueno Park
Spring is cherry blossom season in Japan, and they sure do love it. ‘Sakura’ season calls for drinking under the trees (hanami) – which I as a Brit love, any excuse to rekindle the teenage days of drinking in the park! There were street food stalls present too, and the waft of fried chicken, a tinny in hand and a beautiful view made me feel right at home. Shinjuku
I didn’t explore this place much, but thought that the landscape and architecture was pretty cool. Standing Sushi – Shibuya
A new experience eating in a restaurant whilst standing, but this place was reasonable, quick and you could see the chefs making sushi with their hands right in front of you. Presentation was on point. Odaiba
A reclaimed island which you can reach by train. Features: a great view of Tokyo, plenty of restaurants, a Ferris wheel, museums and a statue of Liberty (God knows). Purikura – pretty much in any arcade!
KAWAII! These little photobooths which makes your eyes bigger and you can add cute stickers to your photos. Japans Kawaii culture (basically, hello kitty and cutesy stuff everywhere) is every teenage girls dream! I would have loved these photobooths as a youngen, but there is no limit on enjoying them now!
Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city, and it has some fabulous views! I didn’t have a chance to explore anything specific, but I’ll be back, there’s plenty to do here and below are some quite snazzy photos. I’ll be posting more stuff about my adventure soon – hope you enjoyed reading about Japan!
You know when you’re in the mood to do something relaxing and indulgent on a rainy day off? Well my idea of that is to bake! I’ve wanted to try Beetroot brownies for ages, and I got a recipe, persuaded by the fact it said ‘practically half the fat of regular brownies’, and made a few adaptations.