What really struck me about Chiba was the sci-fi feel to the underground passages. The lights are low and soft instrumentals flow out of hidden speakers. Each of those panels you can see has some kind of artifact in them. They range from Japanese scrolls to porcelain armadillos from Texas. Why? It's sci-fi!
It was empty when I first went down there, which made it seem wonderful and peaceful. After I decided to take a picture, however, lots of people showed up.
I also went to a coworkers farewell party. She's going to be travelling around England for a while before returning home. So, on Sunday, we went to Watami to see her off.
This formed part of the starters. You might be able to see tiny crabs there. One of my friends told me you could just eat them whole, like potato chips. I didn't believe her, but she demonstrated. They were actually really nice!
On Tuesday, I went to Nekobukuro after my shamisen lesson, with kuroe. You might've heard that Toukyou is this crazy place where people actually pay to stroke cats OMG!!!11 Well, it's true and I've wanted to go to one for ages! I miss having a cat around.
The first thing you see before you go in is a 'cast list' listing the cats you can talk to. My first thought was that this was some kind of cat host club. I still don't really think I was too far off, actually. The only difference is the price -- adults pay only 600 en for entry, or 500 en if part of a couple.
There are four cats in the second picture. I have no idea of the kitty count for the first.
These aren't real videos and books, of course. You might be able to make out titles such as 'The Nyaminator', 'THE NYATRIX' and 'The Nyancise Cattese Dictionary'... Maybe I'm just easily amused.
My favourite cat! He let me pick him up.
On Wednesday, I decided to go to Kamakura. I hadn't really had a spare day to do so for ages. I was told that you could just get on a train at the station where I worked. But I couldn't find the station on the map and I had no idea what the kanji for Kamakura looked like! Basically, I didn't even read a tourist guide beforehand... I'd been told it was really easy, after all.
Luckily, one of the staff told me the platform number and wrote out the kanji. After that, it was easy. I got on a train and was there one and a half hours later. The Toukyou section of the trip is underground, but Kanagawa and Chiba are all above ground. Kanagawa prefecture looked really interesting. At Oofuna, just before Kita-Kamakura, there's a huge white Buddha that juts out from a forest on a hill and overlooks the town.
Once I got there, I had no idea where I wanted to go. I had a vague idea that Kamakura was famous for its natural beauty and giant Buddha. So the first thing I did was to grab a tourist map, which was covered in the symbols for temples or shines. They were everywhere! So I just kept walking.
Currently, Japan is going crazy over ajisai, just like it did for sakura in late March/early April. I think ajisai are hydrangeas, maybe? The kanji are very attractive (紫陽花), and generally mean 'violet' 'sunshine' and 'flower'.
Daigyouji is actually dedicated to the image of the Goddess of Delivery, so I didn't pray there! A group of school kids were trying to though... But the gardens were beautiful, amongst the nicest I saw that day.
I decided to walk to the nearest big ajisai site, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, seeing as those at Daigyouji were so beautiful. Judging by the crowds and the groups of school children, I'd guess this was the major temple of Kamakura.
The approach to the temple is guarded by two giant stone komainu (guardian lion-dogs) and an arch. Beyond it is a path lined with flowers, with tree branches overhanging.
...Surrounding it is lots of traffic. I guess they just built the roads around it.
For what it's worth, I didn't adjust the colour on that photo or any others. Isn't the pink amazing!?
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is quite beautiful, but really crowded. Like much of Kamakura (or so it seemed), the water was almost stagnant. It looked dirty and was covered with pond-skaters. I bought some Blue Hawaii-flavour shaved ice near the temple, but the guy selling it seemed miserable. Like he wasn't listening to anything I said because he didn't expect me to say anything he understood. And so he communicated in gestures...
I didn't really see any ajisai at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, just waterlilies. Afterwards, I went on to Myouhonji, another apparent site for ajisai. It was surrounded by forest, with a mountain burial ground. The graves were covered in moss, but there were still fresh flowers. The scenery was stunning and there were no tourists bar a small group of watercolour artists. I also saw some amazing butterflies. There was a huge red, black and white one. I didn't see any ajisai in bloom though!
And so, I head back towards the main street. On the way back, I saw another temple, full of flowers.
Unfortunately, I know neither the name of the temple nor the names of the flowers.
After that, I looked for a place to eat while I walked to the famous 'Daibutsu' (Giant Buddha Statue). Unfortunately, there was nowhere! Most of the shops had either chosen Wednesday as their day off, or were closed until the evening. The rest were cafes selling 'mix pizza' and other fairly ordinary food. But, by the end, I was really hungry and decided to try the next shop I saw. Luckily - or so I thought - it was a shop with flags outside advertising that they sold monjayaki, okonomiyaki and yakisoba. I went up the stairs and was greeted by an old man who looked at me very strangely indeed. I started to speak, but he interupted me.
"Yakitori ga nai!"
I was confused. I'd never asked for yakitori... I tried to say something, but...
"Yakitori ga NAI!!"
I apologised and said I didn't understand. He repeated himself and so I claimed to understand that he didn't sell yakitori (and his reasons for telling me this) and backed away slowly. He wasn't getting any of my money!
I felt pretty miserable after that, not to mention confused as to what had actually happened. Also, I was still hungry! Nevertheless, I was almost at the Daibutsu.
I guess I was a little disappointed, particularly since this was the most famous sight of Kamakura. But I paid the 20 en (!) required to have a look inside. You go down some steps in the dark, then up some steps to a platform inside that must be a little higher than the base. There's some steps further up that lead to shutters in the Great Buddha's back, but these stairs were sealed off. The photo, incidently, was taken in the split second that there were no crowds in front of the statue. I seem to be pretty good at capturing those moments!
After that, I took the bus back to the station and ate at Saizeriya.
Not a bad day, but I got the impression that some people were fairly unfriendly, even though the area was beautiful. I think I'd like to go back and have a look at the area along the coast, but I'd research restaurants in advance and not leave it to chance.