Day 2: Trip to Kamakura & Ladies Arrive
Predictably woke at a jet lag fueled 0540 feeling ready for the day. Decided not to try and convince my body to sleep any more but rather make the most of an early start. Leaving the bags at Tokyo station, headed to Kamakura a very attractive little town about one hour sourth of Tokyo with all sorts of shrines dotted in the hills around the coast. Enjoyed beautiful hike through some incredibly quiet forests with nothing but the sounds of birds filling the air. Quite surreal as everytime you peaked over the hill or through the bamboo forest you realised how close you remained to masses and masses of houses and factories but the trail managed the pretence of wilderness all the while.
Happy to get my first glimpse at Mt Fuji from the a platform behind the temple. Slightly covered by the haze but clearly the famous snow covered crater in the distance. The hike ended in a little valley with a very tranquil zen temple which is renowned for its gardens complete with large cemetery - seemed like a pretty darn nice place to rest your bones.
Second lasting impression of Japan: Just how incredibly friendly everyone is, as I strolled through the village reciprocating lots of head bows and mumbling what I hoped was something vaguely appropriate to the various greetings uttered. Got back to the town and rented a very Japanese sized bike to visit some of the other temples in the vicinity. including a Buddhist shrine dedicated to lost children. Hundreds of little child statues lining the pathways placed by women who had lost children before birth. Quite touching and clearly still quite a popular place for women of all ages to visit.
Spent a few minutes riding along the coast alongside a very grey beach, in spite of the large numbers of surfers trying to make a go of whatever swell there was. By the time I was back in Kamakura the hordes had arrived and I struggled my way up what had previously been empty streets to find some udon noodles. On my return to Tokyo was still jet lagged enough to completely forget where my locker was in the station and spent a good half an hour wandering around getting progressively more confused. Thankfully nice information kiosk lady on hand to point me right (twice!).
Arrived back to find the ladies had arrived without incident. They were keen to get a little bit of Tokyo so we headed out from the hotel to a local tempura restaurant before heading for the bright lights of Ginza. Incredibly high fashion from top to bottom, we counted three Tiffany's along route so I guess if you haven't convinced your guy to get that ring at the top of the street, you can try, try again. There seems to be some war between the world's luxury brands to see who can outdo each other with different lighting displays and other forms of shop design.
Full marks to DeBeers whose whole building looked like a piece of art, I guess that's what controlling 60% of the world's diamond stock can do for your marketing budget. The ladies were immediately blown away by the fashions on display (both on the street and in the windows) and red wedge heels are clearly on the must buy list before we leave this island. After getting a bit lost and even more cold, we made our way back to the hotel.
Sarah bravely decided that the only way to beat her jet lag was drinking on through so we all freshened up and headed to Rhoppongi hills for the evening. Once again managed to get a little bit lost but eventually walked up the main highway before arriving at what can only be described as Leicester Square - Tokyo style. I'm sure there are many good things to say about the place but the combination of not really knowing where we were going and the only bars we could find being obviously expat hang-outs complete with premiership football blaring on the TV left a fairly bad impression.
Luckily we managed to dive down a side street and found ourselves in a very odd Japanese restaurant where you had to put your hand in a monster's face mask to open the door. Once inside we were shown to a private little table where the evening entertainment began - large monsters visiting each table to ask in who we had been 'bad' and was therefore due to be banished to the mountains for a lifetime.
Sadly our Japanese and the monster's English weren't quite good enough to get the full gist of the show but they did offer to theatrically cut off my head. Enough of a surreal Japanese experience for a little group still coming to terms with jet lag. I had a very nice bit of spare rib which I got to cook on hot lava rocks myself whilst the ladies struggled with eternal zen challenge of silken tofu vs. chopsticks.