Sunday, September 6, 2009: Our first full day of sight-seeing was indeed a full day! We started the day with a very traditional breakfast of rice balls with plum or soy sauce, seaweed to wrap around the rice balls and miso soup with mushrooms. Then,the whole family loaded into a van and off we went to visit the city of Kamakura, about an hour south from Yokohama.
Upon arriving in Kamakura, we ate lunch. The presentation of their meals is so artistic. I just loved the little dishes. This was my lunch of fish, rice, miso soup, pickled cabbage and a gelatin type of dessert. I am proud to report that David and I ate with chopsticks the whole trip. It was very challenging at first and there were times, when I was extremely tired that I couldn’t get them to work. However, for the most part, we were very successful.
Kamakura was founded in 1192 and was the capital of Japan until 1333. Thankfully, it was spared Allied bombing during World War II and today it is home to 65 temples and 19 shrines.
Finally, we visited one of the two largest bronze Buddha pre-modern bronze statues in Japan. It was cast in 1252 and is 37 ft tall. It once was housed in a large wooden hall, but that building was swept away by a tidal wave in 1495. It must have been one heck of a tidal wave…we were near the water, but still quite a distance from the shore. I just can’t imagine and the fact that the statue remained….divine intervention??? You decide.
One of my most cherished souvenirs is the book which I started at Kamakura. You can purchase a plain book from any of the temple or shrine areas. As you visit the different temples or shrines throughout Japan, there are stalls that you can go to and a monk will sign your book, for about $3.00 in calligraphy. He writes the date, name of the temple/shrine in black and then, with red ink, stamps it with a large round or square stamp. I had my book signed probably at 12 places. I can’t begin to tell you where each page was from, but that doesn’t matter as each signature is so beautiful. I will enjoy this book for a long, long time.
So, we had a full day of sightseeing in Kamakura and when we were heading back to Yokohama City, we thought we were returning to the condo. Junichi, Michiko’s husband, wanted to show their Chinatown. It is Japan’s largest. It was certainly a busy, crowded place. We got there after dark and it was fun walking through the narrow streets with the colorful lanterns . Dinner was at a Chinese restaurant. We had a private dining room, which was fun. Junichi ordered enough food to feed an army! The table had a large lazy susan in the middle and we were able to turn it to try the various dishes that he had decided on. Everything was delicious.
The day ended by visiting a Japanese grocery store. It was the same concept as our grocery stores, push the cart, pick out what you want, pay for it and then you wheeled your cart to another area, where you bagged your purchase. We couldn’t always figure out what certain foods were, but when we did, we compared prices. Some items were comparable, but other food items, like fruit, were very expensive. A bunch of grapes were about $40!, apples were anywhere from $1-$2 each.