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Devi's Japan Travels Part 14: Tokyo & Kamakura Reunions

On the Shinkansen from Kanazawa to Tokyo, I watched the beautiful landscape pass by. I thought about the busy times I would have in Tokyo, literally and figuratively. Literally because it's very crowded, and figuratively I would have to coordinate meeting up with so many people that my head got crowded with all the information. I guess most people reading this blog have some knowledge of Tokyo already, but my experiences are more of a personal nature, as I stayed with my friend and met up with other friends. So I won't write about the Tokyo touristic stuff, but more of my experiences there which will include Kamakura with my teacher (whom is a local from there, descendant from samurais even! Very proud awesome lady) from my time I studied in Fukuoka 10 years ago. My teacher from my first year as a student back home whom moved to Tokyo a while back. Some of my best friends who live here and more. My last week in Japan I will spend like that - enjoying lunches, day trips, dinners, and hangouts with friends.



Shinkansen life!


 Beautiful mountains on my way to Tokyo



As soon as I arrived, Tokyo slapped me in the face with its pace. I am so not used to this anymore, after weeks of countryside and roadtripping! I will get used to it of course but man, what a fast-paced place. My friend Aya, whom I met in Osaka 5 years ago during my internship, picked me up from the station and we had some soup as dinner, a small quaint soup place which is similar to The Soup Spoon. After we walked around Tokyo Station a bit and looked at the nice architecture, we went back to her place which is quite far from the center but nice and quiet.

 Arrival! The ever-bustling Tokyo Station



 Yummy soup! From the Soup Stock



 The last remnants of sakura

My cozy little corner at Aya's place

Tokyo Day 1: Reunions at Todai

When I woke up Aya had already left but had prepared me breakfast, I am so lucky to have such nice friends! Japan really feels welcoming and home.
Itadakimasu!

I went to Todai to meet up with my teacher from my Leiden University times. She was my Japanese language teacher in my first year, and might I add, a damn good one. I hadn't seen her in 12 years so it was really nice to catch up! I really couldn't speak Dutch anymore after not speaking it for a week. It's so strange that language ability goes away so quickly, so not fair.. Or maybe I'm just an old auntie (stop laughing!). Nowadays she was teaching at Tokyo University, or Todai, so I went there to meet up with her and also check out the campus a bit. We went to a donburi place near the main gate, which was an awesome place. I ordered a salmon-tuna-avocado don, you could even order extra sides so I ordered extra salmon and negitoro (negi = green onion plus toro = fatty tuna, this shit's da bomb!). The place was packed with students and people were waiting in line so we couldn't really talk because it was noisy. We decided to go to a cafe afterwards on campus and we had some herbal tea in the sun. The weather was amazing! Not too cold, not too hot. Sakura season had already passed in tokyo. There were some sad looking treas with wilting sakura, which makes me feel a bit nostalgic knowing life is fleeting like sakura. Beauty is fleeting. However, the green leaves were taking over, so there's still life after sakura. I will call the green leaves 'wisdom' after the 'beauty' of sakura, heh heh how deep is that?? I just ruined it with the last comment, didn't I. Darn it, I need to learn when to stop in order to sound a bit smarter.


A Korean friend of mine from my Fukuoka days happened to be studying at Todai, so I met up with him as well. We went to the Starbucks and of course I had (my gazillionth) soy matcha frappuccino. Walking around the campus I saw the main building, represented in Chobits which I watched when I was around 14. Since then I always wanted to go to Todai to study. At least I got to see the main campus! After hanging out with him I went to Shibuya, saw Hachiko again (never get tired of it somehow). I tried to find this gallery a friend of mine was supposed to have an exhibition, but I found one exhibition about calligraphy instead. I continued to Roppongi Hills to meet up with a friend and saw the spider statue for the first time. As he works there he took me up to the tower and I saw one of the most amazing sunsets from there.




We decided to get something to eat before meeting up with other friends. We saw this kebab place, Mamo Kebab, and the guy working there immediately started speaking Turkish to me. I was kind of shocked how he knew! After eating the kebab we went to Hub, a pub style place which is a chain. A Turkish guy started talking to us again so it was a very Turkish evening. Two other friends joined us and we walked around to get some more food and drinks. There were a lot of lovehotels in Shibuya, I never really noticed before. At last we found a Kushiage place and it was a very nice, small and cozy place. We did an Omakase, which means that someone else would decide for us ergo the chef's recommendation. So the deal was that they would keep on bringing skewers until we said stop. We weren't even that hungry but it took a while for us to stop as it was so yummy! We had stuff I never tried before in really amazing combinations like skewers with tartar sauce or tomato sauce. With every stick the waitress would explain how to eat it, with or without sauce, with salt only or just like that and etc. That was an interesting experience. One friend gave me a really cool present, I hadn't seen these friends in 10 years, since my Fukuoka days, so it was really nice catching up with them.

 I loooove Kushikatsu!


After a long commute back to Aya's place standing for an hour I got home dead tired. The only thing I don't like about Tokyo is how crowded it is. So comfort is lacking every now and then. Despite all that, people stay polite and respectful, which really amazes me every time. This is what is interesting about Japan, in my home country people would fight for seats (lol).

Back home I had an ichigo daifuku (yumm!) I got on the street from my walk towards Roppongi. I had one with some green tea and talked with Aya about all kinds of things like how Japanese people don't really exercise in general for example. Things that even amaze her despite being Japanese herself. We also talked about the difference in culture between Osaka and Tokyo, for example on the escalator people stand on the left side and in Osaka it's on the right side. Or people don't say ikemen to handsome/cool guys in Osaka but use the word otokomae. After our long and interesting talk it was time to sleep!

Tokyo Day 2: Reunion in Kamakura

I feel this time Tokyo is full of long-time reunions. Especially the 10-year + ones. I got up really early and Aya made breakfast again but this time we ate together. Sitting on the train updating my notes for this blog I realized how fast time went by, I still only had four days left in Japan but still so much to do and so many people to see.

I met up with my teacher Shimizu-sensei whom was the head teacher 10 years ago for the Japanese Language and Culture Course (JLCC) at Kyushu University. She also became my thesis supervisor and we had a lot of contact. She had resigned in the meanwhile and is living in Kamakura.  It was so nice seeing her again, we visited some temples and of course the Daibutsu. Most entrance tickets were around 300 yen. For 20 yen you could even go inside the big buddha, but I didn't do that. We started at the Engaku-ji near Kamakura North station (where I got off), then we went to Kotoku-in (great buddha), and at the end we visited the Hase-dera.

 Going to the Engakuji, with beautiful sakura trees still in bloom, nearing the end..





 Cute turtle




 We saw an archer practice 



After visiting the Engakuji temple grounds we had some lunch

Shimizu sensei had made reservations at a traditional Japanese restaurant and we had some lunch there. I had the tempura set and you could get a lot of extra veggies at an open buffet. We talked a lot about the classmates from back then and wondered what everyone was doing now. The thing that was very nice about this meeting was that she was no longer my 'strict' sensei, but a friend. We laughed a lot together and told each other about ourselves like friends while enjoying the parks and temples and a view over Kamakura and the sea.

After eating we went to the Kotokuin

 The big buddha, it's big alright!



 For a small fee of 20 yen you could go inside

Of course the usual picture of the Great Buddha with sakura, I couldn't leave without taking this of course!

Following this, we climbed up to the Hase-dera, which had beautiful gardens, temples, and views over Kamakura and the sea. We sat there and talked about life while gazing over the sea. It was very nice and calming. I love temple grounds because they are always so peaceful. Until big groups of tourists come in of course.


Hase-dera with some sunshine, the weather was beautiful that day

 Beautiful flowers in the temple gardens




 How quaint is this?? 


 Beautiful sakura tree

The Benten-Kutsu, a small cave with a lot of little statues dedicated to the god Benten. It has a very low ceiling and I don't recommend it for people who are claustrofobic or have back pain as you have to bend down going through it.







 After sightseeing we talked while gazing over Kamakura and the sea

After all that walking my sensei walked me to the station and it was time to go back to Tokyo. In the evening I met up with Aya and we went to a foreign exchange student party at Waseda University. My friend Judith whom I also know from my Fukuoka days (and also had not seen in 10 years, see a pattern here?) was teaching at Waseda University and invited us to join the party for some drinks. It was really a student party, plastic cups, bottles of soda's and alcohol to mix yourself, and chips in paper bowls. The students were mostly post-graduate or graduate so it was very nice talking to them as the age difference wasn't that big and people came from all over the world, from Thailand to Mozambique! I introduced Aya to Judith and together with a friend of Judith we all went to get some Chinese food. I was really in the mood for mapo tofu and there were a lot of Chinese restaurants around Waseda which was very surprising to me. 

Judith knew a Mongolian friend of mine whom I also hadn't seen in 10 years and he didn't know I was in town so he decided to come to Shibuya station to see me even for half an hour! It was very nice seeing him again and I got all nostalgic about seeing all these people I used to see very often. We only had a half an hour as we had to take the last train back. Aya and I got some inside jokes about the train, and laughed about that. Tomorrow I will have to get up early because I will go to Fuji five lakes with my Dutch friend. Stay tuned for LOTS of Fuji-san pictures :))


~Written by Devi~








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