Two surprising things I’ve discovered about Japan on this trip: how big surfing culture is and that hydrangeas in the summer can draw almost as big of a crowd as cherry blossoms in the spring.
As we got closer to our stop in Kamakura our train ran parallel to the beach, all I could see for miles in the waves are hundreds of surfers. Every few minutes we would pass a man or woman on a bike with a surfboard on a bike rack. As we strolled along the beach, I didn’t see kids building sand castles or people lying on towels sunbathing, I would see man, woman, and child in wetsuits with surfboards. No, in Kamakura families go to the beach to go surfing.
In the same town but a few miles inland from the beach, beach vibes suddenly turned into temple and shrine vibes. We went to a few beautiful shrines and temples but the two major attractions in the area are 1) the giant Buddha statue, which is about the height of a 3-story building, and which you can enter and climb up to the inside of Buddha’s head and 2) the Hasedera Temple which has a long winding path surrounded by hydrangeas. I’ve enjoyed spotting wild patches of hydrangeas blooming along railroad tracks or random sidewalk corners all over Japan so far, but we arrived at the temple unprepared, not knowing that thrones of Japanese people have come to view the hydrangeas which were in full bloom the time that we went in early June. As we slowly made our way up and down a small hillside covered with hydrangeas in a very orderly crowd, we were reminded of the civilized mob cherry blossom viewing we went to at the Imperial Palace a few springs ago.
Enoshima was another beach town that’s a short walk from Kamakura but it was crawling with tourists. We enjoyed the checking out the shops along the narrow stone street that led up to the temples and bought some standard tourist fare including a cucumber on a stick and some Anpanman toys–we definitely had some fun taking pictures in our Anpanman mask. The highlight of the day had to be the Japanese one-man talent show that we saw outside of a temple. His stunts were pretty cool but for me the most memorable thing was his amazing, over-the-top personality. We all stood watching mezmorized for at least half an hour and Ellie couldn’t stop imitating his tricks the rest of the trip.