Japan Day 12, July 14th
I wake up at eight and Nick has already left for work. The plan is to head to Nagano and then to Meguro, or if I can get to Meguro directly from Tokyo, to do that. The first thing I do is check the weather. Eighty five degrees expected average. Feels like ninety eight with humidity. Low cloud cover. The hiking path is mostly uncovered, and I’ll hit the main part of the road around noon. Mayeb this is something to do on my next trip in Japan. When I’m not here in the summer.
Some thinking and a quick look through my travel guide leads to the decision that my time would be better spent in Yokohama or Kamakura. Kamakura is rife with cultural landmarks, including many temples, so I decide on there. I do a little better on my departure time and make it out around ten thirty. I take the Keiyo line to Tokyo station, one stop on the Shinkansen to Yokohama, and then take the Yokohama line to Kamakura. When I get to Kamakura I realize that the I could have taken the Shinjuku line all the way from Nishi-Funabashi to Kamakura. Oh well.
I use the map outside of the station to try to find my way to one of the major temples. Between the station and the temple is a massive marketplace selling chopsticks, books, trinkets and touristy things. The first place I stumble upon is a Ghibli store, and I buy a bit more than I should. Only small things though. I pass by a famous curry shop that I’d seen on television when I lived in Yamagata. Mental note that I’ll have to come back here. Kamakura is sort of like someone took Asakusa and Kyoto and slammed them together in half the space, and then swept away extraneous peices. Perfect for a day trip despite the heat.
Some wanderng down a main road and I finally make it to [NAME OF TEMPLE I HAVE TO LOOK UP.] I’ve seen photos of this temple in trains advertising for tourism outside of Tokyo. The path to the temple is flanked by ponds filled with lotus blossoms and lily pads, seperated by a bridge. This is supposed to represent the divided between the Genji and Heike clans from ages ago that tore apart Japan in a form of civil war. The temple itself is a large structure seated halfway up a small mountain. This means walking up a lot of stairs, which I’m not fond of in this heat. The view from of Kamakura from the top is worth it though, and the main temple structure is a sight to see.
With an hour and a half to kill I make my way to two smaller temples before heading to the train station. I get to the station around five, to make my way to Shinjuku at seven. Today is Nick’s birthday, and while he’s kept it quiet for the most part he told me he wanted to go for drinks tonight. No place better for that than Shinjuku.
There’s a little confusion on which exit we each are at, something typical of Shinjuki station as it is so massive. We finally meet up and have dinner at a cafe on the business side of Shinjuku. The food is decent but a little over priced, but I guess you pay more for the location and atmosphere. A set of TVs lining the walls play music videos as we wait. They play one in particular after every three songs, a video by some J-pop group wiith a chorus of “Izuko izuko izuko” while they dance around in what looks like Barbie’s dream house when opened up into the cross section while a laser light dance party is being thrown. We must have heard the song at least nine times before we left, and we were happy to get away from it.
Fed and thirsty, we start by searching for my favorite bar in Japan, Rock Bar Mother. Like always, I have trouble finding Rock Bar Mother. I’m half convinced that it’s like Brigadoon, only coming out of the mist once every five times I look for it. After a good fifteen minutes searching we decide to give up on it and head over to the Golden Gai. Nick had never been here before, so we take our time wandering around and taking in the sights. A lot more of the bars are welcoming to nonmembers and foriegners than I remember. We finally decide to start with La Jetee, an old stand by in the Golden Gai. The owner is fluent in Japanese, French and English. A small place like all of the bars in the Golden Gai. It has a nice sophisticated atmosphere, and we’re served a small snack of scallops along with our beers.
After two drinks we move on to Bar Plastic Model, a much more modern take on Golden Gai bar scene. All white and almost cubist in design with models of all kinds (from toy models to pictures of fashion models) across the place. We chat a little with the bartenders and the locals in the bar, and gaze longingly at the Nintendo playing the opening menu to Super Mario Brothers. I learn through experience that their bathroom is smaller than that on airplane. The bartender asks us where we’d been this night, and the conversation leads to our search for Rock Bar Mother, and if it is still around. They know of it, know where it is, and draw us a map. Now I’ll be able to find it for next time. After our second drink at Bar Plastic Model we make out way to Shinjuku station and catch the last train back to Nishi-Funabashi. I pack a little before going to bed in preparation for Yamagata tomorrow.