Golden Week in Japan ushers in the loveliest of Spring weather. It is one of the most popular weeks for travel in Japan. There are 4 national holidays during the course of a week and this makes for a popular travel week during the start of these gorgeous spring days,
San'en-zan Zōjō-ji (三縁山増上寺)
One of the most endearing and arresting sights at the San'en-zan Zōjō-ji (三縁山増上寺), a large and prominent Buddhist temple situated in a public park near the Tokyo Tower. Row upon row of colorfully "dressed" stone statues at the "Unborn Children Garden". Crimson and vermilion crochet caps adorn these foot tall statues.
While I was filming this, the daily 5 p.m. chime came on, with the tune from Yuuyake Koyake 夕焼小焼け, a tune originally written by a school teacher. The words to the song remind the children that the day is done and it's time to go home.
Bamboo Grove — Hokokuji Temple
Kamakura is about an hour by train from Tokyo and offers a plethora of Shrines and Temples. The bamboo grove at the Hokokuji Temple, albeit modest, still makes for a sublime walking experience.
The Great Buddha
The local tramways were stuffed to the gills. The Japanese have a special way of impossibly cramming people into train cars. The Great Buddha at Kotoku-In (at the Hase station) was impressive. Guide books have reported that President Obama has graced this tourist site with his presence.
Local Kamakura "octopus cracker". It's squid dipped in batter, put into a very high pressure "hot press" and cooked into a thin wafer like cracker. It looked like an abstract painting silkscreened onto an edible translucent substrate.
Dressing Public Sculptures
The practice of dressing public sculptures and statues, large or small brings smiles out all around. This, at the Hase train station at Kamakura.
Mount Fuji Bathed in Pink
The setting sun on the way to Enoshima, a small island connected by a causeway with a walkway for pedestrians. Mount Fuji (Fuji-san, as the mountain is affectionately known) in the distance bathed in a rose pink glow.
On the left, strips of complimentary seaweed snacks at a newly discovered Udon and Soba restaurant, Honmura An Soba, in Roppongi (thanks to our friend Mark). The indigo color from the pickling of eggplant was intriguing, at Doma Doma, a local Izakaya chain.
The Wagashi Obsession Continues
The "Romancecar" Limited Express train runs from the Odakyu station at Shinjuku to Hakone. This train ride cuts the ride down to one and a half hours, shaving half an hour and the need to switch trains to get there. Hakone is located South West of Tokyo and makes for a lovely day trip. Upon arrival and foraging for food, I came across a little shop which sold... Wagashi!
Good advice is hard to come by
The reputation of the "pirate boats" on Lake Ashi precedes all other forms of transportation in Hakone. (There is a "ropeway cable car" and a track bound "cable car" in addition to vintage electric tram cars). An invasion of Disney in an otherwise unspoiled seaside town.
My traveling companions were mobbed by Japanese school children who were clamoring to practice English and were kind enough to help the children complete their English homework assignment.
I am the Eggman... Coo-Coo Ca-Choo.!
The sulphur springs at Owakudani is the first stop along the Hakone Ropeway (cable car). The hike up the hill was a gentle one but the air got pretty nasty near the pools of sulphur. This has to be one of the strangest tourist attractions. The infamous "not to be missed" food here — eggs that have been boiled in these steaming sulphur pools!
This work man is collecting baskets of eggs that have just been boiled in the liquid sulphur vats. And the result? A completely blackened shell with a frosted sheen. The eggs were strangely beautiful and while there was a faint scent of sulphur on the egg white, they tasted like regular hard boiled eggs. I didn't think I could eat one on the spot, the fumes was positively vile!
Hakone Jinja Shrine
The last stop of the day was the Hakone Jinja Shrine by Lake Ashi. Surrounded by 800 year old cedar trees was a marvelous way to end the day. This is the Torii leading to the Shrine from the main road.
Dragon statues at the shrine. Usually one is expected to rinse your hands with water (with ladles provided beside a trough of running water) before you go into the main shrine area.
This was an additional special watering grotto located immediately outside the main shrine.
A Kafkaesque image
A stunning Torii in the water providing a gateway to the shrine from Lake Ashi.