After work on Saturday, I took an overnight bus from Nagoya to Yokohama and then departed for Kamakura at five in the morning
. My first destination in Kamakura was Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, because it is open even early in the morning. The shrine is one of the top tourist attractions of Kamakura, but there were only a few visitors at the early time of day. It is famous for the yabusame ritual held there every September. Actually, I visited the shrine twelve years ago, but I didn't remember much about it. Why? This time, I found the reason: there was nothing impressive but the scale of the shrine... Strangely, a sign on a pond saying, "Be Careful Of Soft-Shell Turtles", reassured me that I had visited the shrine before. At half past six, I left the shrine, heading for the Great Buddha of Kotokuji Temple and it had just opened at seven, when I arrived there. Fortunately, I was an only visitor at the time, enjoying the tranquil precinct with the Great Buddha, but unfortunately, the gate to the inside of the Buddha was closed until eight. So I waited for the gate to be opened just in front of it, but nobody waited behind me until eight. Paying only 20 yen entrance fee, I got into the body of Buddha statue at eight sharp. There was nothing much to see in there, but strange as it may sound, I was excited at the fact that I was in the Great Buddha! Anyway, I stayed in the body no longer than five minutes and left for Hasedera Temple, which was supposed to open at eight. That was my first time to visit the temple, although it was one of the most popular tourist attractions of Kamakura. I paid 300 yen at the reception and went through the gate. Then, I was impressed by a beautiful garden just there. Not only the garden, but also all the precinct was well-maintained and pretty. I found a wild squirrel on my way to the main hall housing a 9-meter-high statue of the Goddess of Mercy and the largest wooden fish (Buddhism instrument) of Japan. In addition, a view of the Yuigahama Beach from the hill in back of the hall was excellent and the Benten Cave was small, but impressive. All in all, the temple was not specially large, but there were a lot of interesting things to see
I left Kamakura at half past nine, although I had been scheduled to leave at eight thirty, and rushed to Yokosuka to join the Naval Port Cruise. It was best to book the cruise online beforehand, but the reserved tickets had been fully booked, when I found its website a few days before, so I had to wait in line to get a ticket on the day. Because I knew the cruise was very popular, I dashed to the ticket counter just after I arrived at Yokosuka Station. In spite of my effort, the ticket counter was not open and there was only a short waiting line. Anyway, I was able to obtain a ticket for the cruise 20 minutes later and to get on board one hour later. The cruise was a Japanese-guided tour around the Yokosuka Port. with American and Japanese naval bases. The guide was well-versed in the military ships and it was a lot of fun to listen to his explanation about them. In Japan, Yokosuka port may be the only place where you can experience the unique cruise. After the cruise, I got on a retired battleship in Mikasa Park. The battleship Mikasa was active in the Japanese-Russo War in 1904-05 and now it is "fixed" on the coast of the park. To be honest, the ship was beautifully renovated and it was not so attractive to me. If it had been a ship which just came back from the war, it would have been more interesting... The inside of the ship was a museum.
The Zushi Beach was my main destination of the day, but because I spent too much time in Yokosuka, I was late for the yabusame ritual. When I reached its venue, there were a number of spectators including foreign residents and tourists. Just after the WWII, a yabusame display took place on the beach and stationed American soldiers were enchanted by the traditional Japanese martial art
. They practised yabusame and, three years later, the Japan-U.S. Yabusame Goodwill Match was held there. Even nowadays, Zushi has a residential area for the U.S. Navy and a lot of Americans attended the yabusame ritual, too. I arrived at the beach at around two and half of the ritual had already finished. Still, I fully enjoyed the rest and the closing ceremony in addition to a samurai procession after the ritual. Actually, I followed them down to their goal Kameyama Hachimangu Shrine and somehow took a commemorative picture of them.
Takeda School of Horseback Archeryhttp://www.yabusame.or.jp/english/top.html
The Takeda School shows their performance not only in Zushi Beach but also in Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.
I left Zushi at half past two. Because I had booked an overnight bus from Shinjuku to Kusatsu for 6 P.M., I had some time left to spend in Kanagawa or Tokyo. Since Yokohama happened to be conveniently located on my way to Shijuku, I chose to stay for an hour in the city where I worked 12 years ago. I felt like sightseeing around Minato Mirai 21 with the Red Brick Warehouses, which opened in 2002. When I asked about the way to the district at the TIC of Yokohama Station, I was told to take the Minato Mirai Line, which I had never heard of
. (It was opened in 2004.) The Red Brick Warehouses were only five minutes' walk from the nearest station. They were called "warehouses", but they were filled with coffee shops and clothiers inside, and it seemed that their main customers were young locals. My impression was they were not sights for tourists, but for young couples and families who seek for an active holiday. I was not a local, but I enjoyed strolling around the area and wished I could live in Yokohama. (Unfortunately, because my camera was out of charge, I couldn't take any pictures in Yokohama.)
The final destination of the day was Kusatsu, which is famous for its hot spring. I was scheduled to get on a JR bus at the bus station of Shinjuku "New" South Gate. Although I lived in Tokyo for 10 years, I never heard of the gate, so I had checked it out before I left home. Then I found out that the bus station was located at "Yoyogi" (two minutes' walk from Yoyogi Station and eight minutes' walk from Shinjuku Station). It was very confusing and I relieved that I had known the fact before I went to Tokyo. Come to think of it, I have never taken a JR bus from Shinjuku. There may be no JR long-distance bus station at Shinjuku.
I had been to Kamakura once before this trip. I was with my ex-girlfriend at that time. We didn't travel many times, or rather, I don't remember any other trips with her. In that meaning, Kamakura was a memorable place to me. This time, the city happened to be very close to my main destination Zushi (to watch yabusame horseback archery), so I felt like returning to the old political capital of Japan. I visited Yokosuka for the first time, since I mistakenly believed the city was only for a military base, not for tourism. However, when I heard about a cruise of its naval port, Yokosuka was put in my destination list. In my original plan, I was not scheduled to visit Yokohama, but its most popular tourist destination Minato Mirai 21 was closer to Yokohama Station than I thought, so I dropped by the newly-developed district.