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Our 6-Day Kantō Tour (関東六日游) 10/3 – 10/8/2008; kamakura 鎌倉 October 23, 2008

Posted by hslu in Travel.
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Sunday Morning, 10/5/2008 – Umihotaru 海螢島 (Sea Firefly), kamakura 鎌倉市and Odawara 小田原

  • The breakfast was overwhelming; so many selections and so much food. We got up early and the place was already filled with people.
  • We had: western omelet, fruit, bread with butter and jelly, xi fan, various Xiao Cai, scrambled egg, sausage, bacon, ham, hot cakes, coffee and orange juice. We both made several trips to the food counter probably because the Japanese dinner we had last night wasn’t big enough.
  • It was very filling to say the least. However, the sausage tasted kind like hot dog. Bacon still had a lot of fat in it. It seemed that they only dipped it in hot water without browning it on a grill. The ham tasted like salami. And the scrambled egg was watery, slightly buttery but under-cooked. This is just how the Japanese (and Chinese too) hotel preparing their scrambled egg. Fruit was fresh and plentiful. However, they didn’t have mango or papaya. Maybe I was asking too much.
  • The most unusual Xiao Cai was Nattō (なっとう or 納豆). I took it out of curiosity because I wanted to try what ordinary Japanese eat at breakfast. Am I surprised! It was fermented soybeans in a sealed paper container about 3 oz. in size. As I opened the seal, I first encountered a very unusual strong smell; kind like blue cheese with some black Chinese rice vinegar. The container also had 2 small packages: soy sauce and something else. I added the soy sauce but didn’t bother to check out the other package. The soybeans all had a thin coating of mold on the outside. As I tried to pick it up, it had these endless strings that looked just like spider web. I had to make an effort (like using my fingers and napkins) to get rid of the strings from my lips and chopsticks. The soybean was slightly salty (from the soy sauce), soft and somewhat tasteless; probably because I was mentally trying to block the taste from overwhelming my taste buds. I guess you have to like it to eat it. For me, it is something new for the first time. Later, our tour guide 佐藤由理 Yuri told us that it is very healthy and beneficial to our health and is very popular in the eastern regions of Japan like Kantō. For a closer look of 納豆, check http://tw.youtube.com/watch?v=T_u63CwsdMA
  • More about our tour guide in a later write up.

    • We left the Hilton around 8:30 and rode the bus to our first stop: 海螢島 (Umi-hotaru (sea Firefly) in the middle of the Tokyo Bay. It is an artificial island (人工岛) about an hour-drive from the Narita airport. This is a popular tourist stop on the Tokyo Bay Aqua Line Highway/Tunnel (东京湾横断道路.) Two things that immediately caught my eyes were a full tray of steaming 肉包子and the display of a 14-meter diameter drill plate of the tunneling device. We didn’t buy any 肉包子but took some pictures of the drill plate. The entire highway/tunnel took 31 years to complete (1966 – 1997) at a cost of one trillion 440 billion 日元, about $8.6 billion US dollar back then. The square steamers are unique and sturdy

    • Our next stop is 鎌倉市 (kamakura). Kamakura is famous for its wood carvings and 醃菜 or 漬物...The streets we visited in front of the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine鶴岡八幡宮has many stores displaying the traditional 鎌倉彫. They are all very beautiful but extremely expensive. This pair of chopsticks made from 銀杏(Ginkgo biloba) will set you back about $18. They do come with a pretty box though. As for the 漬物, a store recommended by our tour guide is called 味くらbut they don’t give out samples. Here are some pictures to give you some ideas of what I am talking about.

  • Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrin 鶴岡八幡宮is a beautiful Shrine and one of the major attractions here. After we toured the Shrine like everyone else, we saw a newly wed couple in traditional Japanese wedding dress (Note that the bride was dressed in white symbolizing purity) walking from the Dance Palace (舞殿, The first building in the background.) where they probably had their wedding there. I wish I could have some in my pond.Another thing that worth mention is the lotus ponds which has hundreds of lotus plants with huge leaves (at least twice the size of my lotus leaves in my fish pond.) Many of them are probably been there for a long time.
  • · Wakamiya Oji Street 若宮大路 The approach (about 12’ wide) to the Shrine is lined with two rows of about 150 hundred cherry trees each. On the outside of the Wakamiya Oji are streets for cars and pedestrians. This is one of the Japan’s 100 most beautiful streets. Too bad this was not late March when cherry blossom should be at its peak. A Japanese girl dressed in traditional Kimono was also spotted in the crowd. A group of young girls in uniform took their stroll along the Wakamiya Oji after school. They were talking and smiling as if tomorrow (Monday) has no school. Yuri told us that during the weeks of cherry blossom, many companies take turns to have hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties) along the Wakamiya Oji Street under the blooming trees; drinking, eating, talking and partying all day long. Cherry blossom (Sakura) is Japan’s unofficial national flower (Chrysanthemum is Japan’s official national flower.) According to Yuri, the Japanese people have profound respect and deep affection for the cherry blossom because of its beauty while blooming and its falling pedals with such grace while still in its height of beauty. This is probably why many older generation of Japanese give their best and sometimes lives to the companies they work for; often exceeding 80 hours a week. However, the younger generations are not as dedicated as their parents though.

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      Kamachi Dori is a busy shopping street to the west of Wakamiya Oji Street. It has many shops and restaurants and filled with tourists like us. The shops sell all kind of Japanese food, cookies, ice creams (some in purple color which come from purple yam), 人形燒 , 漬物, 和洋菓子, 日本酒, and鎌倉彫. I wish I had more time to逛逛. It was really a lot of fun. We didn’t buy anything because we were about to have lunch at神明丁 Soba House.

    • Our lunch was at the 80-year old SOBA HOUSE神明丁 on Kamachi Dori. We had 饅魚套餐Eel on Rice and Soba with some Sashimi. The eel was not fishy at all but the soba was kind salty. Unlike most Chinese noodle soups which come out hot and steamy, Japanese soba soup is warm and the broth is clear. Yuri had previously warned us about the Soba so that we just ate the Soba noodle but no the soup. The presentation was nice and they were very efficiency serving the group of about 30 people. Apparently they have done it many times.  Yuri and our bus driver ate at a different dinning room away from us. But she was very kind and took care all of us before having her lunch
  • Our next stop was the kamakura Daibutsu, 鎌倉 or the Great Buddha in 鎌倉. 鎌倉 is the second largest bronze Buddha in Japan which was originally built in 1252. It used to be in a wooden temple which was washed away during a Tsunami in the 15th century. Ever since then it was outside It has a remarkable face: gentle, kind, loving and all caring. If you take a closer look of the head of the Buddha you can see the head was re-attached right above the nose because the top half of the Buddha was damaged during the earthquake in 1923. This Buddha is even bigger than Taiwan’s 彰化大佛 which is made of concrete. Every time when I am at a Buddha statue, I feel at easy and peaceful probably because I was growing up near Tai Zhong’s “Bao Jue Si” where our family used to go a lot after my grandma died when I was 10.
  • Another interesting sight was a pair of extremely large straw slippers. It is about 5’ long and 2 – 3’ wide; It looks just like what I used to see in Taiwan when I was a little kid. Many farmers wore straw slippers like that when they bought fresh produces to our local market for sale in the morning.

  • From Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine鶴岡八幡宮, we took bus to the near by Odawara 小田原 visiting the famous Odawara Castle小田原城堡. The castle is made out of stone blocks and is inside a “hu cheng he” 護城河; a 15’-wide 8’-deep channel filled with water to protect the castle. The symbol of the castle is天守閣 which is sitting at the top of a small hill. We had to walk uphill for about 5 minutes and went through several heavy doors (at least 5’ thick and 12’ tall) to reach the base of the building. The inside of the building has been converted into a museum displaying weapons and relics of the warring period around 15 and 16 centuries. As we walk to the top of the castle, I kept thinking about those poor souls who under their master’s order to protect or capture the castle as illustrated in many samurai movies. It would be a tough and long fight to take over the castle and no doubt many people died in the process. It is such a strong contrast to the graceful building that’s in front of us. We stayed here for about an hour and then took the bus to the place where we would stay for the night; Atami 热海. The Chinese name literally translates into “Hot Sea.” It is a popular tourist place for relaxing in hot springs.

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