3 Places Worth Chillin’ At in Kamakura

I’ve noticed that the Kanagawa prefecture holds some of my favorite chill places in Japan so far. It’s close to the ocean, so the atmosphere is fantastic and it usually smells pretty nice, too… Unless you’re on a crowded train on your way to Kamakura. Then it doesn’t smell that good. 😀

So yes, it was very crowded! But like Danielles do, I took a walk off the beaten paths, while also getting a lot of temple/shrine seeing along the way.

1) Hansobo (Chill Level = SUUUUPER Chill)
First I stopped by Kenchoji, one of Japan’s five big Zen temples started by the Hojo clan. This temple was absolutely beautiful and included a garden tour and indoor tour to boot. But what really stood out for me was nearing the end of the temple to Hansobo, a small shrine tucked up in the mountains. The forest mountains and pathways were all lined up with trees, and the steps to get to the top were very steep, proving to be quite the trek. But the view and peacefulness made it all worth it.

2) Tsurugaoka-Hachimganu (Chill Level = Only Somewhat Chill)
Then it was back down and through Kenchoji to my next temple, Tsurugaoka-Hachimangu. This temple seemed to be the tourist’s favorite, as it was packed with people. As in, there were waiting lines to climb up the steps to the temple, and there were lines to get into the temple, and if you wanted to go into the museum part, you’d have to stand in another line for that. No thank you, said Danielle, and so she took her camera and wandered off someplace else.

BUT! The surrounding area to this temple was very nice and proved to be excellent for walking around and taking in your own sights. Another cool thing about this temple was – with people, comes food – all the candy and sweet stalls they had. I got myself a strawberry candy before taking off.

3) Kotokuin Great Buddha (Pretty Chill)
I walked around the shopping streets of Kamakura for a while (always gotta buy a souvenir) before making my way to Kamakura’s Kotokuin Great Buddha. I guess a first-time visitor to Kamakura can’t NOT visit this statue. It was – again – very packed with people (guess I picked a popular sight-seeing day), but again, once you got out to the gardens, bought your charms, and took your pictures with the statue, it really became a nice place to relax.

Next time I get the chance to visit Kamakura (or Kanagawa, at least), I’d love to see the summertime hydrangeas. I’m told that if I go around the rainy season, a lot of the temples there have really pretty hydrangeas in bloom. And I am all about that kinda life.

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Sakura in Osaka – a Hanami Recommendation

‘Tis the season for cherry blossoms! If you’ve heard of hanami, then you know it probably has something to do with family, friends, or punch-drunk salary-men picnicking under the cherry blossom trees.

You’ve heard correctly.

To each person, hanami has its own different meaning. Some people prefer quieter, local areas, sharing a few snacks with their kids, friends, or special someone, while some people prefer to go out, get drunk, and get happy with a bunch of coworkers (depends how pushy their company is to attend, I guess). In general, everybody is just a lot happier, as they all break out of hibernation and get out to take pictures of their local sakura.

Things you can expect to experience around this week (give or take) of hanami are:

  • Seeing various food stands, selling takoyaki, ice cream, or mini castella cakes
  • Finding lots of random sakura pedals kind of scattered around the sidewalks
  • Getting some strong whiffs of sake/beer in more crowded areas
  • Getting some whiffs of other flowers that start blooming around this time
  • Seeing loads of different parks with their own festivals celebrating the season
  • A ton of birds, and some bugs starting to emerge into Springtime
  • Seeing lots of sakura-themed goods when shopping (probably the most impressive sakura collection I’ve seen so far is at Afternoon Tea. Check this shit out)
  • Seeing sakura-watching boats traveling up and down the rivers
  • Showing up in the background of tourists’ selfies

Just as quick as the season started, it’s already starting to end. It’s a shame that such beauty has such a short lifespan… But maybe that’s what makes them so beautiful? I guess the sakura means something different to each person, but to me, they kind of represent a beautiful, yet somewhat tragic similarity to life and life’s fragile impermanence. It makes me step back and appreciate things a little more. Makes me feel smaller and humbler in the whole scheme of things.

But then again, this could just be the long-awaited Spring talking, and making me feel all emotional.

Without further ado, I will now include photos of Sakuranomiya, Banpaku Memorial Park, Yodo River, Nara Park, and Osaka Castle – for your viewing pleasure. Although I’d recommend any of these places for next year’s hanami (if you can’t make it this year), I’ll leave that decision up to you.

Catching some early sakura at Banpaku Memorial Park:

banpaku

Osaka Castle:

Nara:

Yodogawa:

Sakuranomiya (my top hanami location recommendation for you):

Quick factoid side-note: As you can tell by the many photos I’ve included, the five-petaled somei yoshino, yamazakura, are the most common and popular wild cherry blossom trees out here in the Kansai area. They look more white than pink and have a very soft, cloudy appearance, especially when the sun hits them juuust right.

Osaka’s Valentine’s Day Chocolate Expo 2018 Results

So White Day, March 14th, has just passed me by. The day in which women receive a return gift from those they have given Valentine gifts to. Since I, too, participated in the Valentine gift-giving, this March 14th, I received some Mister Donuts from my wonderful boyfriend, who knows me so well.

To those unfamiliar with Japan’s “Mister Donut” shops, I beg you to try their “Pon De Ringu”. https://www.misterdonut.jp/m_menu/donut/ That stuff is fluffy gloriousness.

donuts

This Valentine’s Day, I was fortunate enough to visit Osaka Hankyuu’s very own St. Valentine’s Day Chocolate Expo 2018. There’s not much else to say, other than “Holy chocolates, Batman!”

There were lots of hungry consumers, and there were lots and lots of glorious chocolate stands, all of which had a different theme to them.

For example, there were the “cute” styled ones.

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There were “cool” themed car ones, which you could actually “take apart” and eat. Very creative.

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There were “Godzilla” themed ones, the largest of which cost 7,560en (about $75!).

godzilla

The most popular ones seemed to be the “sake chocolates” and the “animal” themed booth, which I had a hard time taking a picture of because of the extensive lines and crowds surrounding the poor stand and its very busy, underpaid part-time workers.

 

There were also very badass “outer space” themed ones, Foucher Olympus, and I’m telling you, I felt like the Chocolate King of the Cosmos, going back a second time to actually buy these (shameless Katamari reference). http://valentine.season-evt.info/foucher/

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I’ve searched the web to try and see if you could order these, but all I’ve found is, “There are no more products found for this product”, meaning they’re probably sold out… Which sucks, because I would definitely buy these suckers again.

They had a very mature, kind of sophisticated taste about them, most of the flavors dealing with an alcoholic beverages, like brandy, vodka, and more. Very quality, creamy, and light stuff. If I can ever find a link that sells these, rest assured, I’ll be posting.

All in all, I had a fun time at the Expo, contributing to the heavily-marketed Japanese Valentine’s Day. I’ve noticed that, to Japan, Valentine’s Day is really money-oriented, rather than the more traditional Western representation of a “holiday of love”. (Taking it a bit further, White Day can also be observed as another “Japanization of Western culture”, as it created the day – pessimistically speaking – to make some more money.)

However, when you think about it, gift-giving has ALWAYS been a big part of Japanese culture to begin with. And as a consumer, I think the products they deliver are very creative, and the holiday can be a lot of fun; especially the giving part. And with Mister Donuts, I mean, who can complain?