Japan March 2004

Japan 2004 Day 3: Kamakura and Shinjuku

Saturday March 13, 2004

Jonathan met us promptly at 8:30am downstairs in our hotel and we set off on our first full day in Japan. Before we headed off to Kamakura, we decided to head over to Tokyo station to exchange our money as well as to validate our JR Rail Passes. Jonathan was a big help. He was able to get the passes done without any problems. It was very overwhelming and I am glad he is here for the first day so we can get our travel legs. There was no currency exchange available, but we were able to find ATMs at the Post Office across the street. I took out 30,000 Yen (approx $300) – it should be enough until I can translate my Traveler’s Checks I am worried that I might eat through all of my cash, but I know I have Daniel’s extra money in my account to spend. I might have to call back to the States to have Mom look up my bank account and make sure I am OK.

After a quick stop at a convenience store for some nibbles, it was off to Kamakura. The train ride was smooth and efficient once again. I pictured the town to be a small village, but here in Japan that means only 500,000 people. Once off the train, we managed to catch a bus out to the Diabatsu. Photos I had seen of it had sort of made me think that it was in the middle of a remote area, but like Stonehenge, there is a major highway right next to it. We managed to snap some good photos, and it finally feels like I am on vacation.

One of the temples at Hasedera
Josh and the Gorn turning the prayer wheel

From there, it was a short walk down to the next temple Hasedera. This was a neat temple complex with some great views as well as some cool photo ops. From there, we attempted to get to the Zeniarai benten. Not an easy task as it turns out. We managed to take a very scenic route (one spot Jonathan was asking for directions at a museum in a whirl of Japanese). After a brief stop at Sasuke Iwari Jinga Shrine (which we thought was in the direction of the Zeniarai benten), we finally arrived at our temple. This is another very popular temple complex set in some caves. The main highlight is a spot where you are supposed to wash your money for good luck and good fortune. I washed some money and the Gorn and then back on foot to the train station. We stopped for a quick bite at a supermarket and also for some ice cream on the “Shopping Street”. I tried Jonathan’s purple sweet potato ice cream. Daniel likened it to “Lucky Charms Marshmallows” I just didn’t care for it at all.

inside Zeniarai benten
Shopping Town
Enjoying frozen treats in Kamakura

We made it back to our hotel without much ado and after a few Cokes and tea we set off for Shinjuku. It is a bit overwhelming of a place for the first time visitor to Tokyo – very crowded and full of life, and actually just as I imagined Tokyo. We decided to do some Shopping, first at Uniqlo and then Tokyo Two hands. I decided that I must have a shoulder bag to replace the one I left back home – especially since everyone here has one. I decided that I’d settle on the cheap 1,000 Yen bag at Uniqlo, just need to get an opportunity to come back and get one. It was then off to Yodibashi, the famous electronics store. It was delightfully tacky and crammed with goodies. I fell in love with some of the tiny laptops, but not the prices. It was not surprising that prices are just a bit more than the states on most items. Even memory cards for my camera were way overpriced. I did manage to find a case for my camera that was uber-cool.

Shinjuku at night

After shopping, Jonathan led us through the more colorful red light district, but not before stopping for some counter service pasta. It was not that good because my “meat sauce” was actually “pork sauce” and tasted like Taco Bell meat (better luck next time). After some more exploring, we popped into a bar that Jonathan liked. Not much going on so we were on our way before too long. We finally headed back to the train station to go back to the hotel, but not without stopping at Tower Records first. I wanted to get “Dark Water” but the copy they had was Japanese only with no English subtitles. Looks like eBay for me! We finally made it back home and collapsed into a deep sleep so we would be ready for another full day tomorrow.