13 Oct 15
It’s never occurred to me to explore the outskirts of Tokyo before and since I didn’t have a plan outside of the Tokyo Game Show, I thought I should bring my unicycle along and ride some trails.
Unfortunately, a week before I flew, a typhoon hit Tokyo, flooding the northern areas. The trains to Nikko were stopped until further notice when I was there and there were fears of landslides in the more mountainous terrain. I left my unicycle at home.
It’s unfortunate though because Kamakura would have been perfect for riding.
Located just 2 hours south of Tokyo (and connected directly from Narita), Kamakura is best known for the giant Buddhist statues around town. Most of the tourist spots are quite spaced out – close enough to walk but far enough to take up the bulk of your time. In short, it’s a great place if you’re looking for a good workout.
I rented a bike on one of the days when it wasn’t pouring and I’m still amused at my inability to ride a bike properly. My biggest problem is in navigating the narrow walkways and judging how wide I am, a problem which the locals obviously don’t face since they’re all charging at me at full speed. I wish I had my uni.
Most of the temples require a small charge and I didn’t want to pay for the privilege of a better photo while jostling with the crowds so I’d look in from the entrances.
I stayed at the Kamakura Guest House which is a hostel in the middle of nowhere with good ambiance. It’s also the only hostel I could find. The only grouse I have with it is that they have strict cleaning times from 10 in the morning so you have to be out of the house by then. Thankfully, it’s a walk away from Hoshino Coffee, a chain cafe/restaurant place with affordable breakfasts and a good cup of coffee. I got the breakfast special which I had assumed to be eggs and toast but was really eggs on a bed of mash potatoes and a chunk half-slice of toast. No wi-fi though but it’s a good place to gather your thoughts.
The perk of having a bike – and you’ll want to do this if you’re in Kamakura – is that you can cycle down to Enoshima, an island with a vibe as removed from Tokyo as you can get. It’s a half-day excursion at least and you can probably spend longer if you decide to take it slow. The main draw of the island (for me at least) are the Iwaya caves which cost something like $5 to enter. It’s in the middle of the island and takes about an hour to walk through. It’s not one of those caves that require you to don headlamps and crawl all over but is still an authentic enough experience to require a candle to light your path at points.
The cave also leads to a walkway where you can look out onto the shoreline.
One of the more famous draws of the island are these tako senbei that you can buy off a couple of shops. This one I queued at had the most mouth-watering aroma drifting from it. It’s amazing how they make these things. A guy would fish out a couple of small octopus, coat them in flour and then lay them out on these presses.
The cook would then close the press and twist a handle to compress the machine further. Some minutes later, when the press is opened, the octopi are revealed as a flattened cracker and the cook cuts it before handing it to you.
Absolutely delicious. I’m also a big fan of senbei and octopus so that helps.
One of the guys I spoke to at the hostel is half-Japanese and has been visiting the Tokyo area regularly. He said that Kamakura is his favorite location to station in and I can see why. It’s removed enough from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and yet is close enough to the main stations to move around easily in.
I only wish I brought my uni.