Kamakura by Rickshaw

Jumping back to a previous day: On our first day in Kamakura, we didn’t have any particular plans so Tracie suggested hiring one of the numerous rickshaw drivers to show us around the town a bit. This turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant venture, in part because of the gorgeous temple we visited but mostly because of the warm enthusiasm of the driver. He was in his early 20s, spoke fairly good English, and was very cheerful as he pulled our large American butts through town and up and down hills. His name was Kentaka but he asked that we address him as Ken, presumably because he’s discovered that the average English-speaking tourist is more able to remember Ken than Kentaka. Here are pictures of us and Ken, and Ken’s energetic “manager”:

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No, I don’t know why Ken’s manager doesn’t get to wear the same snappy shirt as Ken. Maybe it’s because Ken works harder than he does.

Here are some photos taken along the way to the temple:

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Yes, Ken took that photo. Ken stopped here and there along the way, always prefacing the action with the announcement, “okay, we are stopping” and then usually starting a description of some point of interest with the question “can you see the … ?” It took me awhile to realize that he probably meant “do” rather than “can”, but his English is immeasurably better than my Japanese so I’m hardly in a position to be a critic. Besides, Ken was an engaging and knowledgable guide and his command of a language other than his own didn’t seem to be any sort of hinderance.

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Ken said that this is Kamakura’s largest river:

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He recognized the irony in that statement, and mentioned that while it wasn’t particularly large the water was very clean. Here we are at the entrance of the main destination of our short tour, again photographed by Ken:

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That’s the main gate of the Hokoku-ji temple, a small temple nestled in a remarkable setting: a bamboo forest. The temple was founded in 1334. We weren’t planning to visit it; I had read a brief description of it in one of our guide books and it sounded lovely, but it’s quite a ways from our hotel so I dismissed the idea of visiting it. Hence I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that Ken had brought us to it.

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Ken said something like “Japanese make gardens even on water” when we passed this basin:

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Ken’s enthusiasm for explaining little bits of Japanese history, culture and aesthetic was warm and genuine.

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This is the temple itself:

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The rear of the temple meets a bamboo forest. Walking through the bamboo was a unique experience. It’s very quiet among the bamboo, and the air is cool. The leaves rustle softly far above your head, and now and then a dry leaf flutters to the ground.

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Those pointy things are bamboo shoots. Ken mentioned that they’re harvested for food, and was surprised to hear that we don’t eat much bamboo in the U.S. He also said that it takes only a month for a stalk to grow to its full height!

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It’s now easy to understand why bamboo groves play such a prominent role in movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers. They’re magical places.

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The little stone things in the cave are memorial markers, presumably for rather old graves.

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And here we are on the way back. Ken talked to us much of the time he was pulling us along at a trot, most of the time without even breathing hard. It was a nice way to see more of Kamakura than we could have covered on foot.

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This is the walkway down the main street to the Hachiman-gu shrine. We walked along this same path last year; compare this photo to the one in the entry about Kamkura from my previous Japan blog (scroll down to nearly the bottom of the page; it’s the second photo from the bottom).

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This lovely little tea room was part of our hotel room, separated from the rest of the room with shoji screens:

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It was also about the only thing that distinguished the hotel, which was somewhat threadbare around the edges, once you got past the lobby. Fortunately we were there for only two nights.

Categorized as Japan 2008

By adam

Go ahead, try to summarize yourself in a sentence or two.

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