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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Komeda Coffee – A Recommendation

So it’s 3:00PM. Time for tea. Or in this case, coffee. Nagoya-styled coffee. Your place of choice? Before you get comfortable and say, “Starbucks”, let me first urge you to “give Komeda Coffee a shot”.

Or “get a shot… of coffee… from Komeda…”

…I tried the pun thing. Maybe I’ll be more creative next time.

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Komeda’s Coffee is a great cafe that offers decently-priced delicacies from Nagoya. My favorite of which is the infamous Ogura Toast, which is basically a thick (and I do mean thiccc with three C’s) piece of bread, slathered with sweet, whipped butter and red bean paste. You can order this Ogura Toast thinly-sliced or thickly-sliced. But let’s be real, thick is where it’s AT.

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Their sandwiches are also excellent. I ordered a Fried Pork Cutlet Sandwich (no pic included) from them, which was quite sizable and tasted fresh. And, of course, I highly recommend their coffee (pic included way above).

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They’ve got coffee. They’ve got Ogura Toast. They even got fluffy, Shiro-Noir Danish pastries. For your viewing pleasure, the menu: http://www.komeda.co.jp/en/menu/index.html

Since Komeda Coffee started off in Nagoya, you can find them all over the Aichi prefecture, but I’ve also seen them around the Kansai area, as well. If you spot one, and if it’s remotely close to 3:00pm, I’d highly recommend popping in to scope out those sweet, sweet (and I do mean sweettt with three T’s, if that’s a thing) tasties.

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:

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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.