What do you get when you mix a volcanic beach with a giant Buddha and a Fourth of July holiday? An excellent weekend away, that’s what.
We celebrated the Fourth by booking ourselves into a beachside hotel in Kamakura, a seaside town roughly an hour south of Tokyo. We travelled by train, so it was more like 2 1/2 hours away, but for this Ohio girl, that’s still a really, really short distance to arrive at the ocean.
Kamakura is a great little town with a beachy, relaxed vibe. It’s also home to a tremendous number of shrines and temples. Liam and I explored quite a few for a quick trip back in March. This time around, we chose to only visit the Great Buddha, or, Kamakura Daibutsu. It’s a massive copper Buddha. I truly mean massive: It weighs 121 tons and is roughly 43 feet tall. It’s also impressively, impossibly, old. Construction began in 1252. Since then, it has serenely survived earthquakes, typhoons, world wars and countless tourists and pilgrims.
It was a good day to try out the filters on my new camera:
Liam was ecstatic to get to play in the sand at the beach near our hotel, Kamakura Prince Hotel. A few toys from the 100 yen shop, a stick or two, and plenty of waves kept him busy. We all enjoyed watching the surfers take advantage of the mild waves. A few managed to stand on their boards now and then when a bigger wave rolled through.
The sunset revealed a glowing Mt. Fuji. (Again, I had a little fun with filters….)
We ate our breakfasts at a beachside diner, Pacific DRIVE-IN. The pancakes were amazing. The coffee wasn’t bad either.
Exploring Kamakura was easy, thanks to a tram-like light rail that winds its way through the city and along the coast. They were charming but crowded.
Here’s a couple shots from around town:
I loved this street sign near the Great Buddha:
Without meaning to, I capture the three men in this photograph of a torii gate positioned right next to a railroad track. (Note the officer’s white gloves, the mask on the worker and the priest’s beautiful trousers!)
Very near Kamakura is a small island, connected to the mainland by a bridge, called Enoshima. We walked on the bridge one evening but opted not to go all the way out to the island, which is also a popular tourist spot for its shrines and views. The island is that lush green mass with the modernist light house popping up.
There are beaches on the mainland on either side of the bridge. We took the tram railway out late one afternoon and explored the area, partially in an attempt to make a plan for the next day. There’s a long row of beach huts that offer shade, refreshments, lockers and showers for a fee. Not far from the Enoshima Aquarium, we scoped out a hut we wanted to use – in large part because I was able to translate the posted fees using my Google translate app on my iPhone – and absorbed the atmosphere. One side had a sidewalk with plenty of steps for people watching and the other faced the beach. Unfortunately, the shacks don’t have toilets so you have to trek to public ones a little more inland. (We would have opted to swim closer to the hotel but there were no beachside toilets and showers and no chance of shade.)
We’re used to a fairly conservative culture here. At a family waterpark we went to a few weeks ago, many of the Japanese moms not only wore one-piece suits with swim shorts, but quite a few even sported light-weight jackets and hoodies. (In the water!) You don’t see tattoos very often and they are usually banned at pools, water parks and onsens. But at the beach? At least this beach? Anything goes. Lots of tattoos on view and quite a few bikinis.
We took a nice stroll along the shore before grabbing dinner at a Hawaiian-themed restaurant, Aloha Table. (There are a lot of Hawaiian-themed restaurants in Kamakura.) Afterwards, we walked out onto the bridge leading to Enoshima Island for the sunset.
It was a good excuse to take family pictures. Wil was cracking up when taking the picture of Liam and me. Only later did I see why.
We returned the next day for our Fourth of July day of beach fun. I don’t have any pictures because I opted to leave my phone safe in the locker. We also rented a couple of beach chairs and an umbrella to provide a little respite from the sun. It was a Monday, so not terribly crowded, and there’s a nice, large expanse of sand. It’s also very, very sticky sand. We were glad at the end of the day that we had shelled out the cash for our hut’s showers.