This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Kamakura Homestay

On Wednesday, June 23 we leave Shizuoka heading east towards our final destination, Tokyo. But first, our next stop is Kamakura. Kamakura is famous for having many temples and shrines, a long swimming and surfing beach, and views of Mt. Fuji. Its one hour proximity to Tokyo makes Kamakura a popular day trip for sightseers. Kamakura’s beaches are swarmed on the weekends. Luckily we arrive on a weekday.

As the train slowly creeps onwards I can feel that we are much closer to mega-urbanization. The buildings around the stations are becoming larger, taller and closer together. The train is also getting more and more busy at each station which makes it uncomfortable having suitcases that take up precious floor space. We get off in Ofuna. A busy stop to try to pull a suitcase around. I wish I was wearing a t-shirt that said “pardon me” in Japanese. I also start dreading having to ride the Tokyo subway with all of our luggage and don’t even want to think about Jakarta.

So two trains and one monorail later we arrive at Mika’s friend’s stop. Rina and her seven-year old son are waiting for us at the station. Rina is now a stay-at-home mom and urban herbalist. A few months ago they moved into a new home in a beautiful, hilly suburb of Kamakura. Kamakura is essentially a suburb of Tokyo. Instead of having a mother-in-law apartment, they bought a mother-in-law’s duplex. The home strangely has two adjoining interior doors with Rina’s mom’s house on the other side.

After settling in, we take a fifteen minute walk down to the beach. All along the sand they have started building wood structures that will temporarily house restaurants, bars and aesthetic salons to serve the mass of Tokyoite beachgoers this summer. The sun is setting and the western sky is turning pinkish. We continue along the beach and suddenly Rina points out Mt. Fuji. The shy mountain has finally appeared from the clouds to reveal himself to us. We start walking more briskly to get to the Mt. Fuji viewing boardwalk before daylight is completely gone. The sky is now a screaming orange-pink. I, of course, do not have my camera. Luckily Mika has her small one in her purse. We do our best to get photos of the iconic mountain.

That small triangle on the horizon left of center is Mt. Fuji.

That evening we meet Rina’s husband, Shingo, at a restaurant near the ocean. He teaches web design in Tokyo and has a one-way, 70 minute commute everyday. The restaurant is an Izakaya with numerous local fish specialties. An Izakaya is an eatery where you order many small plates that everyone shares instead of entrees. We also order a local sake. Everything is fantastic.

The next day, Shingo goes to work, their son goes to school, and we have a leisurely breakfast with the usual assortment of Japanese dishes that I have now become accustomed to. I tell Rina that if she came to visit us in Denver she would probably just get cereal and a banana. After breakfast she takes us to see some of Kamakura’s sights.

Mika and I return exhausted from sight-seeing on foot all day. Mika and Rina make dinner. I play soccer with her son in the street. We have a great home-made dinner of more Kamakura fish specialties. After dinner her son gives us a violin concert of Vivaldi with a Bach encore. When I was seven, I was lucky if I could play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the recorder. Shingo gets back very late from Tokyo. Everyone is too tired to wake up at 4 AM to watch Japan’s world cup match.

The next day Mika and I head out late with only one temple and grocery shopping on our agenda. We return home and Mika prepares Vietnamese spring rolls and fried noodles for dinner. After dinner we have a rousing game of the Japanese version of LIFE, which includes golf club membership, a Yakuza career option and nuclear plant meltdowns. Without being able to read the board or cards, I win the game. Rina’s husband returns from work just before 12 AM.

Early Saturday morning, Shingo heads back to work - if you have not figured it out yet, the Japanese work really long hours. Mika and I had bought bagels (package of two bland bagels = $2.75) , cream cheese and smoked salmon so we have a nice brunch outside with Rina‘s mother who told stories about her father who was an antique samurai sword expert. Around 12 PM we get on a bus to go to Mika’s sister’s house. Rina and her son take the half hour bus ride with us to Fujisawa just to see us off from another great visit. Then they turn around and go right back. The Japanese are very kind like that.

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  1. I would be interested in the details for the home saty. We visit our son and his family in Fujisawa (near Kamakura)and homestay sounds like a great alternative to hotels!.

  2. Hi Rosie and Neil,

    Thanks for the inquiry.

    Yes, this was technically a homestay, but at a friend's house. Sorry if the blog was misleading. Maybe your son knows someone who can put you up for a few days or has some insights into Ryokans (traditional-style japanese hotels) near his home. Good luck!