Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kamakura And My Lost Backpack

Kamakura is a coastal town, located in Kanagawa prefecture and is accessible under one hour from Tokyo. Kamakura became the political center of Japan in 1192 and the government continued to rule Japan for over a century. After the decline of the Kamakura government in the 14th century and the establishment of its successor, Kamakura remained the political center of Eastern Japan for some time before losing its position to other cities.
Today, Kamakura is a very popular tourist destination. Sometimes called the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, Kamakura offers numerous temples, shrines and other historical monuments. In addition, Kamakura's sand beaches attract large crowds during the summer months. In other words, Kamakura can be considered the Malacca of Japan, although the old city of Kyoto may have a stronger claim on that.
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There is one interesting fact about the train in Kamakura. Considering that it is a small town built in a limited piece of land, it is not unusual to see the railway lines spread through the middle of the town. There was one train station in which the passengers were required to walk across the railway track to exit the train station. I know this could be a common thing in the countryside area of Japan, nevertheless it was my first encounter with such scene here.
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This practice appears to be dangerous but the people have been doing this for years.
Speaking about trains reminded me of my carelessness during my train ride from Oyama to Kamakura earlier that day. There were no trains that provide a direct ride from Oyama to Kamakura and that made us having to exchange trains at a few stations. Trains exchanges is nothing new to me, but something stroke me during one of the exchanges that I forgot to take down my backpack I placed on top of the steel ledge in the train. I guess I should blame nobody but myself because the two of us were chatting away along the journey, which made me totally forgotten about my backpack when I got down. This was my first time making such a simple mistake which would surely lead to lots of troublesome work of tracking back my backpack. That left me cursing myself for a few good moments before I figured out the next thing I was going to do.
The moment I realised that my backpack was left behind, I was not panicked nor got tensed up as much as you would expect me to be, because I trust and understand how things work in Japan. When the thing is not their possession, they will never keep it to themselves but will return it to the authorities no matter how big or small the value of that thing is. Of course I do not rule out some cases when such acts are non-existance. Anyway, the only thing I was able to do is to get down in the next station and inform the station master about my left-behind backpack, hoping that they will recover it and guide me to a particular station to retrieve it back. I know I will get my backpack eventually, but it would be just time wasting and troublesome, which will affect my well-planned itinerary.
However, thank god that my carelessness didn't cost me too much of hassles that day. Lady luck appeared to be smiling at me. It so happened that the train in which my backpack was left behind stopped at the same station that the exchange train I took. So, instead of informing the station master, there was still a slight chance that I would be able to get to that first train and look for my backpack myself first, while at the same time hoping that it will not take off yet for its next ride. Just like what you would have guessed it, one of the cleaners of the train was just going to get his hand on my backpack when I stepped inside one of the coach. I told him what had happened to my backpack and thanked him. Finally, I was reunited with my backpack.
Despite going through such misfortune, the tense moments didn't make me lose my mood to explore Kamakura when I arrived there.
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Trishaws for tourist who prefer to explore the town with a guide along the way. Just like in Malacca, they don't come cheap.
From A.D. 1180 to 1333 Kamakura served as the political and cultural centre of all Japan under the capable and enlightened shogunate government. This was also an age of religious flowering, marked by the arrival of Zen from China and the birth of important new native sects as well. As Buddhism in its diverse forms swept into the hearts of the people, temples were built in increasing numbers and with increasingly central roles in everyday life. These various pillars of popular faith and the treasures they embrace have been meticulously preserved in Kamakura through the centuries.
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Masks for kids on sale at the entrance of the main shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.
Wakamiya Oji, the broad path leading up to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is lined with cherry trees that burst into glorious bloom each spring.
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Dankazura, the principal section of Wakajima Oji.
Forming the historic centre of the city is the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Kamakura's most important shrine.
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Camwhoring in front of the main building of the shrine.
Within the expensive precincts of this complex lie a trove of architectural gems from the city’s early years, including the Hongu main shrine and the maiden dance stage. These are complemented by a pair of lotus ponds, a charmingly scenic bridge and the lush trees set off by the surrounding mountains.
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One of the section of the shrine.
Various events are held at the shrine throughout the year. During the New Year holidays, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is crowded with over two million visitors - one of the country's most visited shrines, and in April and September, horseback archery known as yabusame is performed on the lane that leads to the shrine's dance stage and main building.
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If you still recall my time when I visited Meiji Shrine in Harajuku and getting to witness a fake wedding ceremony, this time I saw a real one held on that maiden dance stage. When I was there, they were performing the tea ceromony which looked similar to Chinese wedding as well. However, the families and relatives attending the ceremony were only limited to closed members, and as far as I could notice, there were only the parents of the bride and bridegroom on the stage. I didn't spend much time witnessing the whole ceremony because the process was just too slow, so slow that I decided to leave for the next stop.
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Wedding ceremony on the dance stage.
However, before I left the place, I was fascinated with the huge number of pigeons flying freely at the surroundings of the shrine. Nara and Miyajima may be famous for their deers while Shibuya for their infamous crows but as for Kamakura, it would be pigeons. These pigeon are so tame, but brave enough that they will get close to the visitors who were feeding them with dried corns sold there.
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But sometimes, they get too much action in their acts that they would just fly onto the body of the feeder, especially small kids.
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I tried to feed the pigeons too. At first they instantly came close to me when I began to squat down but later when they realised I was feeding them with something else, they turned away. Guess what I tried to feed them?
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A white piece of map I got from the tourist guide counter which I folded a few times. It made me sound to be the most evil tourist ever.

~ to be continued ~


zhenhui said...

did u happen to come acorss an old lady who sells slippers she made by herself sitting by the side of the road?on the way to the beach...

mg said...

mean mean tourist!

calvin said...

@ zhen hui:
no, i didn't. i never went for a walk along the beach during my time in kamakura. which road do u mean?

calvin said...

@ michelleg:
at least i move the paper away when those pigeons were going to take a bite on it =P

rojakrojak said...

omg, as if turtles makan plastic not enough, you want pigeons to makan paper!!!


KOKahKOK said...

haha...luckily u got it back! you are so confident! That's good! I am a careless guy too! So how to improve? haha...

You are so cruel la! why? cos u feed the pigeon with paper! next time when you become pigeon u will know! hehehe

calvin said...

@ rojakrojak:
at least paper is environment-friendly, unlike the non-biodegradable plastic ;)

just in case there are any activists for the animals' rights who are reading this, please do not sue me 'coz i didn't let those pigeons to feed on the paper.

calvin said...

@ kokahkok:
eat less instant noodles and take more fish. believe me, you will improve your memory tremendously =D

i swear that i will be born as something worse than a pigeon in my next life if i had really fed them with the paper. but luckily, i didn't and hence, i hope i won't have to go through what those pigeons had gone through ^^