Archive for April 2017

an april cocktail hour at the yakatori grill   5 comments

Sunday, April 30:  Cheers!  Welcome to my first cocktail hour here in Japan. We’re meeting at the local yakatori grill tonight because my apartment is either a rabbit hut or a dog kennel, depending on who is labeling it. You can just order what you like at the bar.  As for me, I’m having my favorite Japanese beverages: a sip of hot sake followed by a cold swig of Sapporo beer.  My sister in L.A. taught me that combination, and I’m sticking with it here in Japan.

I hope all is well with you.  I apologize that I haven’t been able to keep up with all my fellow bloggers and friends as I would like.  I work 9 hours a day, walk a half-hour to and from work each day, and then collapse in the evenings.  Every weekend day I go out, trying to see as much of Japan as I can in the short four months I have.  Then I edit my pictures and post blogs about my explorations.  I simply don’t have the time to keep up as I would like.  I figure there will be time for that when I return home, as I’ll have no job and nothing to occupy my time.  But here, now, I must take advantage of this opportunity to explore Japan.

Please do tell me about your spring. I hope yours hasn’t been as cold and rainy as mine has been here in Japan.  Have you planned any travels or taken any trips? Have you seen any good movies?  Watched any good TV shows or read any good books?  Have you eaten fresh fruits and vegetables, or visited any pretty gardens?  Have you done any cooking?  Have you gone on any political rants?  (I have gone on a lot of those lately!)

As for me, this month has been all about getting acclimated to a new apartment, new job, new neighborhood, and new culture. This is just the kind of adventure I love, living and working in a place, getting immersed in the culture, digging beneath the surface.  It always gives me a boost of confidence when I am able to successfully negotiate challenges under these circumstances.  Here are a few tidbits about my month.

Friday, April 7:  Today was my first day of classes.  I teach G, H and I levels, a total of 56 students.  “A” is the lowest and “L” is the highest, so I teach the intermediate, or second from the top quarter, of the second year students. It went fairly well, except I realized right away that my “G” class was a very low-level.  A group of girls and two boys sat together at the back of the room and seemed totally disconnected from the classroom lesson. My “H” class was wonderful, but my “I” class, the last class of the day, from 4:50-6:20, had 8 boys who sat at the back of the class cutting up, and the girls were pretty chatty and noisy as well. Because of the “G” and “I” classes, I realized right away I needed to create seating charts. I created one immediately, separating all boys in the “I” class, and separating the group of low-level seemingly disinterested students in the “G” class.  This also helped me to learn the Japanese names; this was quite a learning curve as I knew nothing about Japanese names.  In China, all my Chinese students took English names, but that is not the case in Japan.  I didn’t know boys’ names from girls’ names; neither did I know how to pronounce any of them, so I was one confused teacher.  I’m sure my students found it quite amusing.

Our administrator met with us to talk about an urgent issue: the sponges in the “pantry,” which I would call the employee kitchen.  This kitchen is mostly for the Japanese staff, as we foreign teachers are pretty much relegated to our own office, caged off from the rest of the staff.  We’ve been told not to speak to the Japanese staff unless necessary.

In the meeting, we were informed that the two small pink sponges on the right of the sink are expressly for wiping the countertops. The large yellow one is for cleaning oily things like Bento boxes.  The large pink sponge next to the yellow one is for cleaning glasses and cups.

Our administrator said, “Sorry. You know — this is Japan,” and she laughed.  🙂

I have about a half-hour walk to work every day, and the first day my feet were killing me because I wore my work flats with the required knee-high stockings.  I decided I would need to wear walking shoes to work; it would be impossible to wear work shoes for a half-hour walk each way.

My first full week of work was stressful with planning and teaching; the students are a lower level than I expected, and they don’t seem motivated.  Planning time seemed in short supply, but my goal from the beginning was to never bring work home with me; after all, I am in the office 9 hours a day.  I was able to do this in Oman, and my goal is to confine my work to the office here too.

Monday, April 10: My Monday lesson was a “shock lecture,” the purpose being to shock the students into realizing how difficult this Academic (Applied Skills) course will be.  The students were to practice note-taking while listening to a high-level lecture about genetics and Mendel and pea plants.  If they managed to take any notes, it was just random words; they certainly had no understanding of the lecture.  It was long and boring as hell.  The biggest problems with the lecture for them were: 1) vocabulary; 2) the topic; 3) speed of delivery; 4) their inability to concentrate; and 5) the length of the lecture, according to a survey I did in class. In effect, everything.

Tuesday, April 11: It rained all day today. It was cold everywhere, classrooms included. In the evening, walking home, I ran into my colleague Tobi and we decided to stop for dinner at a Japanese yakatori grill on our way home.  The husband and wife owners were kind and jovial and the place was warm and cozy.  The menu was only in Japanese and the owners spoke no English, so it was a challenge to communicate what we wanted to eat.  We didn’t even know what kind of restaurant it was at the time!  We had sake and beer, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, shishito peppers, and yakatori, a Japanese type of skewered chicken. The preparation of yakitori involves skewering the meat with kushi, a type of skewer typically made of steel, bamboo, or similar materials. Afterwards, the skewers are grilled over a charcoal fire. The bill was quite high however, and I wasn’t sure of the prices of each item we got.

a mom-and-pop yakitori grill in fuchinobe

The bar had a bunch of Hello Kitty things lined up on it.  On the wall over our table were unopened packages of weird things from about 40 years ago, such as stamped postcards and old miniature toys.

hello, kitty!

After leaving the restaurant in the wind and rain, I broke my second umbrella when the wind kept blowing it inside out.

Thursday, April 13: Less than one week after classes started, my “I” class was out of control.  The boys kept laughing it up, speaking Japanese, and being generally disruptive. One student kept putting his jacket on upside down and then passing it to his friends, who also put it on upside down. I could see the class was spinning out of control, so I had to figure out what I would do to solve the problem.  One of the reasons I don’t like teaching any students below university age is because of discipline problems, and this behavior was like that of middle-school students. I knew this semester would be a disaster if I didn’t get that class under control.

Friday, April 14:  I had a talk with my “I” class about their behavior.  I told them their disruptive behavior yesterday was a big problem for me.  I said, “They’re paying me a lot of money to come all the way from the USA (not really true!) to help you improve your English so your Study Abroad will be successful.  Yesterday, I felt like I was teaching middle school.  That’s exactly why I teach university students and I refuse to teach middle school because I don’t need those kinds of problems in my life. If you are interested in studying  with me, I’m interested in helping, but if you’re not, I’m not interested.”  At that point, I rolled out a new seating chart, separating all the boys.  They weren’t happy about that, but they finally settled down and worked well together. Near the end of class, I thanked them for being so respectful and cooperative and I allowed them to leave 5 minutes early.

The school cafeteria is pretty good and the food is reasonably priced; there, we can get hot udon or soba noodles, or a white sesame ramen.  My colleague Graham, a Brit, told me he tells the cafeteria servers to give him “squashy soup,” which means a lot of noodles but only a little broth. Later, I was informed by a Japanese friend, it should be “skoshi” soup.  When I went to lunch with my Irish colleague Dee one day, she forgot what she was supposed to say and she said “squishy soup, please.”  I got a big laugh out of that.

Dee told a story of hanging her laundry out to dry on her balcony.  One of her shirts fell off the balcony behind a wall.  A young Japanese man brought it back to her on a hanger all washed and ironed; he had found it and cleaned it because it had gotten dirty when it fell.  This is typical of kindnesses offered by the Japanese.

Friday, April 21: Today’s class was on counterarguments and rebuttals.  I nominated a student to do a role play with me at the front of the class.  The student was to play a teenager who asks his mother to borrow her car to drive to Nagano with 3 friends.  The teen just got his driver’s license 6 months ago and has driven 10 times with no problems.

In class “I,” what I call my rambunctious class, one boy student, Daigo, got up to play the teenager.  Here is the role play we had.

  • Daigo: Can I borrow the car to drive to Nagano?
  • Me: Who are you going with?
  • Daigo: My friend’s mother.
  • Me: Just you and her, alone?
  • Daigo: Yes.
  • Me: It’s not appropriate for you to go alone with your friend’s mother. She’s twice your age!
  • Daigo: But I’m in love with her.
  • Me:  She’s married!  You cannot borrow the car and you cannot go with her.
  • Daigo: But I want to go.  Her husband works and she’s lonely.  I love her!

The class was cracking up laughing at this ridiculous role play, and I was laughing right along with them. It was quite funny, but I’m not sure they got the whole idea that this was a counter argument and rebuttal, because later, when they had to write a thesis statement with a counter argument and rebuttal, their rebuttals were actually more counterarguments against the original thesis!

Another student in class “I” fell asleep in class.  I stood over him and said, “Wake up.  If you don’t wake up, I’m going to count you absent. If you’re going to sleep, then you need to leave the class.”  Then Lisa behind him fell asleep!  Ugh.  I hate these kinds of problems!

Saturday, April 22:  Today I went shopping in Machida, a busy commercial area two stops away from Fuchinobe. When I arrived, I bought a cinnamon waffle, which I’ve seen every time I’ve gone to Machida to change to the Odakyu Line. But there was nowhere to sit and eat it, and I remembered I learned that the Japanese think it rude to eat while walking.  I went to Starbucks and ordered a half a club sandwich just so I could sit down and eat my waffle!

I learned a few things while shopping in Japan.

  1. You have to take your shoes off before entering a dressing room, especially when there is carpet in there.
  2. You have to wear a hood over your head to protect tops from makeup or hair dirt or oil. The hood is made of a material similar to dryer sheets like Bounce. It’s a pain because the hood gets all caught up in the neck of the blouse when you pull it over your head, and it comes off anyway!

Monday, April 24: When I got home at around 7:30, after stopping at Gourmet City for some groceries, I realized that my company phone wasn’t in my purse.  I’ve heard we will be charged an exorbitant sum if we lose that phone, so, in a panic, after gobbling down some sushi and a few sips of beer, I hopped on my bicycle and rode at top speed to the university.  I knew I’d never be able to sleep at night without knowing if I’d simply left the phone in the office or permanently lost it.  Luckily, I found the phone sitting right on top of my desk.  Whew!

In April, I kept busy watching Frankie and Grace and Love on Netflix in my down time. I’ve also been plodding through The Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi.

I hope you’ll tell me about your spring!  Since I’m so far behind on my cocktail hours, a May cocktail hour will follow shortly. 🙂

 

from tokyo station to the imperial palace outer gardens, topped off by a beer garden in hibiya {walking tour 1}   11 comments

Sunday, April 30:  We had to work six days this past week, Monday-Saturday; the Saturday was to make up for one of the Golden Week holidays we’ll miss in the coming week.  Actually, Saturday was one of the official holidays, as April 29 is Showa Day, which honors the birthday of Emperor Hirohito, the reigning Emperor before, during, and after World War II (from 1926 – 1989).  Also part of Golden Week are three other holidays: Constitution Memorial Day, on May 3, to commemorate the country’s constitution, which came into effect on May 3, 1947; Arbor Day, also known as Greenery Day or Midori no Hi, on May 4, which became a holiday simply because it falls between two other holidays (Japanese holiday law states that a day that falls between two holidays will also be a holiday); and finally Children’s Day on May 5, a day set aside to respect children’s personalities and to celebrate their happiness. It was formerly known as Boys’ Day; families prayed for the health and future success of their sons by hanging up carp streamers and displaying samurai dolls, both symbolizing strength, power and success in life.  Now the celebration is for all children.

When I lived in China, I also had to work a couple of Saturdays to make up for holidays.  I don’t really understand this Asian mentality: how is something considered a holiday if you don’t truly get it off? 🙂

So after 6 days of work, with only Sunday off before having to return to work on Monday, I debate whether I should rest or venture out.  Because I’m me, of course I venture out, to follow Walking Tour 1 from Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Mostly Exciting City: Marunouchi, The Imperial Palace and Hibiya Park.

Marunouchi means “Within the Moats;” at one time it housed the mansions of the daimyo most favored by the Tokugawa shoguns. For 260 years, the most powerful military leaders of Japan occupied this area.

It takes me nearly an hour and a half to get to Tokyo Station, where the walk begins. The red-brick Renaissance-style station was opened in 1914, and was meant as a memorial for Japan’s victory over Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.  It was used only by royalty (Tokyo: 29 Walks).

Tokyo Station

From the western side of Tokyo Station, I head west, with the Marunouchi Building to the left and the Sin-Marunouchi Building to the right; both boast chic restaurants, fashionable shops and high-end offices.  I keep heading west until I reach Hibiya-dori, which runs along Babasaki-bari (Moat in Front of the Horse Grounds) and the beginning of the Imperial Palace Outer Gardens.

The moat’s unusual name come from a 1635 display of horsemanship presented by a delegation from the then dependent kingdom of Korea to the shogun. On the other side of the moat are the Imperial Palace Outer Gardens.

first view of the moat

Before entering the Imperial Palace Outer Garden, I walk south down Hibiya-dori until I come to the corner of the moat; at this point I turn around and head north, noting the important buildings along the moat, but not quite knowing which building is which because of the Japanese signs.

the corner of palace grounds

Below is the Imperial Theater, which opened in 1911 and was the first major Western-style theater in Tokyo.

Imperial Theater (Teikoku Gekijo)

DN Tower 21, formerly the Dai Ichi Insurance Building, was built in 1938 in what was the style favored by authoritarian governments of that period.  In the original building, from September 15, 1945 until April 11, 1951, General Douglas MacArthur, called the “Blue-eyed Shogun” by the Japanese, had his headquarters as the military and civilian representative of the Allied forces at the end of World War II.  I don’t take a picture of this building.

The Meiji Mutual Life Insurance Building sits where the shogun’s fire department was once located.  They had a thankless and often unsuccessful job putting out the numerous fires that broke out in Tokyo. In the Long Sleeves Fire of 1657, even the shogun’s castle was consumed and destroyed by fire.

Meiji Mutual Life Insurance Co. Building

Looking lengthwise along the moat

looking to the northeast along the moat

I follow the bridge leading into the Outer Gardens; these lie in front of the walls of the palace grounds.  I’m greeted by the 1897 bronze equestrian statue of Kusunoki Masashige, created by order of the Meiji government to promote the government’s new creed of loyalty to the Imperial House and the emperor.  The government emphasized the need to be ready to sacrifice oneself for emperor and nation.  Kusunoki had these virtues: he defended Emperor Go-Daigo and his imperial prerogatives in the 1300s and then committed seppuku, or ceremonial suicide, after he failed defending the emperor against Ashikaga Takauji’s usurpation of power in 1336.

Kusunoki Masashige Statue

Kusunoki Masashige Statue

I continue my walk north past some unusual pine trees at the northeast end of the Outer Garden.

Strange trees in the Imperial Palace Outer Garden

tree shadows

In the 1960s, the Wadakura Fountain Park was added to the Outer Gardens to celebrate the wedding of the then crown prince (now Akihito, reigning emperor of Japan, who will be renamed Emperor Heisei upon his death).

Wadakura Fountain Park

At the end of the Outer Garden near Wadakura Fountain Park, another moat separates the palace walls from the public park; Tatsumi-Yagura and the Visitor’s Center sit on one corner. Today’s Imperial Palace is located on raised ground with walls of huge stones brought by boat in the 1600s from the Izu Peninsula some 60 miles southwest of Tokyo.  In 1873 the last of the Tokugawa buildings burned down, and the emperor and empress were forced to move to the Akasaka Palace Grounds.

Tatsumi-Yagura

The public is allowed on to the palace grounds only twice a year: on the emperor’s December 23rd birthday and at the start of the New Year on January 2. On December 23, the emperor greets the public from the balcony of the Kyuden (Hall of State); on the New Year holiday, the imperial family greets the public from the same balcony.

Tatsumi-Yagura

More interesting trees

When the public is allowed into the palace grounds, they enter over the 1888 Nijubashi Bridge.  The most photogenic place in the Outer Gardens is the spot shown in the photo below, with the bridge in front and Fushimi Yagura, one of the three remaining fortified towers of the Tokugawa castle, in the background. They both seem to rise from the imperial moat.

Nijubashi Bridge & Fushimi Yagura

During the militaristic period of the 1930s and 1940s, the bridge, the Fushimi Tower, and the palace grounds became a symbol of patriotism for the Japanese, so much so that when Japan capitulated at the end of World War II, the more fanatical of the imperial army officers committed ceremonial suicide to atone for Japan’s loss of honor.

Nijubashi Bridge & Fushimi Yagura

another corner of the wall

Finally, I’ve come almost full circle.  I leave the Imperial Palace Outer Gardens, and head east on Harumi-dori toward Hibiya Park.  A large glossy crow stands on the bank of the Sakurada-bari.

a crow on the bank of Sakurada-bari

I pass the Ministry of Justice Building on the right before getting to Hibiya Park.  Two German architects wanted to combine the best of Western and Japanese architecture, but the government, in the push for modernization in the 1890s, insisted on the more Western design.  What I love today are the Koinobori, or “carp streamers” in Japanese; these are carp-shaped windsocks flown to celebrate Children’s Day on May 5.

Ministry of Finance with carp flags

Ministry of Finance

At the north end of Hibiya Park, I find an inviting atmosphere at the Hibiya Saroh Beer Terrace 1949.  The outdoor cafe is pleasantly situated amongst trees blowing gently in a cool breeze. Japanese families are drinking beer and eating from a limited menu.  I would love to have a beer, but instead I opt for a glass of white wine and a tortilla pizza with coriander.  I’m expecting to find coriander sprinkled over the pizza, but when it comes out, it’s covered with a heap of fresh cilantro.  The whole experience — the wine, the pleasant atmosphere, the perfect weather, the delicious cilantro-covered pizza — makes me feel serene and joyous.  It’s moments like these I live for when exploring in foreign lands.

Hibiya Saroh Beer Terrace 1949

After lunch, I’m feeling a bit sleepy from the wine, so I take a leisurely walk through Hibiya Park, which is quite pleasant.

Hibiya Park

Wedding venue at Hibiya Park

Hibiya Park

Hibiya Park

Hibiya Park

flowers at Hibiya Park

delicates at Hibiya Park

pond at Hibiya Park

Hibiya Park

I continue following the walk after leaving the park, passing the Imperial Hotel; the original portion was completed in 1890, but when it proved too small for the growing Tokyo, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to add more to the old hotel in 1915.  After a 7-year construction period, with many cost overruns, it opened in 1922, just as the original Imperial Hotel in front of it burned down, and one year before the Kanto earthquake of 1923.

Imperial Hotel

Finally, I walk through the theater district, passing the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater; this theater served as the Ernie Pyle Theater for American troops during the military occupation of Japan after 1945.

Takarazuka Theater

I’m not sure of the significance of the sculpture in front of Takarazuka Theater.

sculpture in front of Takarazuka Theater

Next door, and across from the Imperial Hotel, is the Nissei Theater, offering ballet and opera in season and concerts and movies at other times.

Nissei Theater

now playing at Nissei Theater

As I make my way back to the metro, I pass a little shrine stuck in the middle of the theater area of central Tokyo.  It’s a strange place to find a little shrine, but it’s a delightful surprise in the midst of today’s ultra-modern concrete city.

small shrine on a Tokyo city street

Here is my route to Tokyo Station this morning: Fuchinobe > Higashi-Kanagawa > Tokyo Station (1 hour 19 minutes).

Total steps today: 18,911 (8.01 miles).

Back to work tomorrow. 😦

 

 

 

kamakura: from yoritomo’s grave to tokei-ji {walking tour 23: part 2}   5 comments

Sunday, April 23: After leaving Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, I follow the map east along Yabusame-baba through charming leafy neighborhoods.  I’m feeling awfully hungry by this time, but no restaurants are in sight, so I have no choice but to keep walking.  As I walk along a street with a sprawling elementary school on the left, I find a food sign outside this place with a carp flag over the door.  The food pictures look enticing and reasonable, so I try to go in; however, the door seems to be locked even though I see a few people eating inside.  Maybe it’s being used for a private party.

a banner over a restaurant door

the walk following Yabusame-baba through a neighborhood to the Grave of Yoritomo

Finally I can see a stone torii and a staircase up the hillside.  I’ve found the grave of Minamoto Yoritomo, the first Kamakura shogun.  At one time, the stones that mark the grave overlooked the site of Yoritomo’s one-time palace on the flat land below the tomb.

In 1180, Minamoto Yoritomo raised an army in order to overthrow the Heike clan, and with Kamakura as his headquarters, he defeated the clan in 1185.  In addition, the creation of the Kamakura Shogunate in Okura established the foundations of the samurai system in Japan.

approaching the grave of Yoritomo

shrine near the grave of Yoritomo

a small shrine near the grave of Yoritomo

In 1199, at the age of 53, Minamoto Yoritomo died and was laid to rest at his own place of worship in Hokkedo, which then became a holy place as his gravesite.  Hokkedo was later abolished, but traces of its location remain around the top of this hill.

stairs to the grave of Yoritomo

It is said that the current pagoda on the site was erected by the Shimazu feudal lord, Shimazu Shigehide.

Yoritomo’s grave

Some people leave flowers and burning incense at the grave, but I’m not equipped with such offerings, and I don’t know poor Yoritomo anyway.  What I do know of him, that he had his brother’s child killed, makes me not think much of him.  However, having read James Clavell’s Shogun years ago, I do have some fascination with the shoguns of Japan.

After visiting Yoritomo’s grave, I continue east following the map, continuing through neighborhoods.

a pretty house on the walk to Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

As I continue to the east, I find the Egara Tenjin Shrine to Sugawara Michizane (under the name Tenjin), the patron of intellectual activities and scholarship.  It’s favored by students who come to pray for success in their studies.

approaching Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine is counted as one of Japan’s three great Tenjin Shrines, along with Fukuoka’s Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine and Kyoto’s Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.

It is said that on August 25, 1104, a depiction of Michizane fell to earth during a thunderstorm.   The painting still survives in the Treasury of Kamakura-gu Shrine; in it, Michizane is in court costume holding a religious symbol of authority, a shaku.  This painting was revered by the local villagers and from that time, the shrine was built and worship began.

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

The grounds of the shrine are a Registered National Historical Site, and the main shrine has been designated as a National Important Cultural Property.

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

There are hundreds of ema on racks here, with pleas for success in studies scrawled on the back..  Michizane was the most brilliant man of his age, but due to court intrigue, he was banished in 901 from Kyoto to Kyushu, where he died two years later.  Various catastrophes after his death were seen as the result of his restless spirit, and thus 45 years later, he was deified as Tenji, the Deity of Heaven.

I think Egara Tenjinsha Shrine was my second favorite today, after the fabulous Kencho-ji Zen Temple near Kita-Kamakura, which I encounter later in my walk.

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

The last place I plan to visit on the east side is Kamakura-gu Shrine, but on the road there, I find a few restaurants.  I poke my head into Warashibe Cho Cha, which looks like the lunch rush just finished; the debris of eaten lunches litters the tables. The frazzled owner directs me to the bar, where I can overlook him and his wife frantically cooking away.

having lunch at Warashibe Cho Cha

I take the owner outside to his sign and point to a tempura meal, and I have to wait a good long while, maybe 40 minutes, before I’m served.  During this time, two very fit Japanese ladies in their 50s, decked out in exercise tights, pristine tops, and colorful running shoes, sally up to the bar in the two adjacent seats. One of them speaks to me in English with a British accent.  She asks if I’ve ordered already.  Then she tells me she and her friend just ran 20km from Kita-Kamakura all the way to the sea at Yuigahama Beach, where Wakamiya Oji begins. They order beers immediately, and then settle in to wait for their lunch, which they say is a special that this restaurant offers.  The one tells me she lives in London because she met and fell in love with an Englishman, marrying him and having two daughters.  She comes back to Japan periodically to help her elderly and ailing mother.  She says she can now stay a month, the longest she’s ever been able to stay, because her job as an investment banker allows her to work at home.  It’s really fun to talk to this beautiful lady, but I try not to occupy much of her time because it’s obvious her friend doesn’t speak English and so cannot be part of the conversation.

I leave the restaurant feeling quite stuffed on all the tempura; the woman, whose name I never got, told me to put radish in my soy sauce to counter all the fat used in deep-frying the tempura.  The meal is entirely too heavy as the variety of shrimp and vegetables fried in tempura batter is expansive!  Plus there’s soup and some other side dishes, all for 1,000 yen, or under $10.

After leaving the restaurant, I walk next door to Kamakura-gu Shrine, which I talk about below. On my way back past the restaurant, I stop to take a picture of it from the outside, and the owner sees me and comes out, offering to take a picture of me. So, here I am.  I think this may be the first picture I’ve had of myself since I arrived in Japan.

Kamakura-gu Shrine was built to worship the spirit of Prince Morinaga, the son of Emperor Godaigo.  Prince Morinaga helped his father to overthrow the forces of the Kamakura Shogunate.

approaching Kamakura-gu Shrine

After the fall of the Shogunate, the Emperor restored direct Imperial rule (the Kemmu Restoration) and Prince Morinaga was appointed commander-in-chief “Sei Taisyogen.”  He was later captured by Ashikaga Takaugi during a confrontation, and was killed at the young age of 28.  The cave where the prince was said to have died remains to the rear of the shrine.

Kamakura-gu Shrine

I’m not sure who the fierce-looking character with the red face is in this shrine.

Kamakura-gu Shrine

I assume this fellow below is Prince Morinaga.

Kamakura-gu Shrine

I get to see a Shinto priest walk past at Kamakura-gu Shrine, but I’m only able to capture a view from behind.

priest walking to Kamakura-gu Shrine

Back in the neighborhood, heading south this time, I pass this pretty pergola with wisteria.  As I turn the corner to head west, a man with dyed black hair, maybe my age or a bit younger, is standing out in his yard and he hollers out to ask where I’m from.  He asks if I’d like to come in for a cup of tea.  I thank him kindly but tell him I just spent an hour in the restaurant up the street and I have a long way to go before it gets dark.  He says, “Okay, okay!  Hold on then!”  He runs into his house.  He comes out with a cold beer, a cold can of coffee and a quart of mango juice and asks me which one I want.  I want the mango juice but I don’t want to carry that quart with me!  I don’t want the beer because it will make me sleepy and pee-prone, and I don’t want the coffee; I don’t normally drink coffee in the late afternoon as it will keep me up at night.

He won’t take no for an answer and insists that I take one of them, so I take the coffee, which has both the effect of making me have to pee plus keeping me up all night, as I figured it would.

wisteria spotted in the neighborhood

It’s quite a long haul to retrace my steps past all the temples I just visited and return to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu.  I bypass the famous temple until I reach a two lane thoroughfare to the west where I’m supposed to walk north through a tunnel and up a huge hill until I finally reach Enno-ji.

Enno-ji is a temple that worships the Ten Judges of Hell, with Enma Daio in the center, whom one will meet in the underworld after death. Enma Daio refers to Yama from Rig Veda, the oldest Hindu mythology.  Yama was born initially as a human and later came to rule paradise after his death.  As Yama from India was introduced to China along with Buddhism, Yama became “Enma,” and due to the influence of Taoism, it later became the “Thoughts on Ten Judges of Hell,” centered around Enma Daio.

The “Thoughts on Ten Judges of Hell” later became the “Faith in Thirteen Buddhas” during the Muromachi era, and is the basis of Buddhist sermon and funeral service that goes beyond the creed of Japanese Buddhism. The Ten Judges of Hell in Enno-ji is the sculpted image of the “Thoughts on Ten Judges of Hell” that came from China during the Kamakura era.  The wooden seated statue of Enma Daio has been passed on as the work of Unkei, and is a nationally designated treasure.

Sadly, no photography is allowed of the extravagant statue of Enma Daio, so I take a photo of this unknown character just for the sake of having something to show for my visit here.

a figure at Enno-ji

Just past Enno-ji and across the road, to the east, is the fabulous Kencho-ji Zen Temple.

Entering through the San-Mon Gate is said to free you from any form of strong desire, addiction and obsession.  The founder of this temple, Rankei Doryu, said “Kencho-ji Temple is open to anyone who intends to learn Zen.  There is always a pleasant breeze that equally treats all people on the temple grounds,” meaning that Kencho-ji Temple is open to everyone, not only the disciples engaged in spiritual practice.

Kencho-ji Zen Temple – San-mon main gate

character in the San-mon main gate

This bell, Bonsho, was cast in 1255 by Mononobe Shigemitsu, a leader of the Kanto Imoji association of bell makers in Kanto.

the Bonsho, the great bronze bell

the Butsu-den (Buddha Hall)

The Butsu-den (Buddha Hall) was built in the Chinese Song style of architecture.

The path to the Buts-den is lined with juniper trees whose seeds the first abbot is said to have brought from China and planted here 750 years ago.  Today the trees are 39 feet (12 meters) tall and have a girth of 20 feet (6 meters).

large juniper trees on the temple grounds

Within the Butsu-den sits a figure of the seated wood-lacquered  Jizo, the deity who protects travelers, children and pregnant women. He holds the shakujo in one hand; it has rings that jangle to scare away insects, so they aren’t walked upon and crushed in violation of Buddhist principles to preserve all life. In his other hand, he holds the jewel that is said to make wishes come true. Behind the Jizo are 1,000 small Jizo images arranged in tiers (Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City).

Jizo, the deity who protects travelers, children and pregnant women

Jizo, who protects travelers, children and pregnant women

In the past, the entire grounds of Kencho-ji Temple were for spiritual practice.  All the 388 monks and priests who lived in the temple precincts gathered here to listen to the chief priest’s sermons.  The building is currently used for Buddhist memorial services, lectures and exhibitions; ascetic monks use Seirai-an for their practice.

Reconstructed by one of the Kencho-ji sect temples in 1814, the biggest hatto building in the Kanto region currently houses the main holy statue, the statue of Senju-kannon. This thousand-armed kannon deity has the great ability to save people from all forms of ambivalence and thus enlighten them. Unryu-zu, the dragon on the ceiling, was painted by the painter Koizumi Junsaku to commemorate the 750th anniversary of Kencho-ji Temple.

the Hatto (Dharma Hall or Hall of the Law)

The hall is sometimes called the Ryuo-den, the Dragon King Hall, because of the dragon painted on the ceiling

dragon painted on the ceiling in Hatto

Inside the Hatto

Inside Hatto

monastic residences at Kencho-ji Zen Temple

Kara-mon Gate, the “four-legged” lacquered gate was built in Momoyama-era Muko-karahafu-style (the late 16th century Japanese roof architect style) and has many elaborately designed metal parts all over it.  It was built as a mausoleum for Ogo no Kata (the wife of Tokugawa Hidetata, the second shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate) at Zojo-ji Temple in Shiba, Tokyo, in 1628. It was donated to Kenjo-ji Temple.  The gate took on a new luster with a complete overhaul in 2011.

Kara-mon, the Chinese Gate of 1646 in the Song Style

Kara-mon

monastic residences

gardens at Kencho-ji Zen Temple

peonies at Kencho-ji

After leaving Kencho-ji, I continue walking north toward Kita-Kamakura.  It’s such a long way!  I have no choice but to keep walking to get to Kita-Kamakura Station or backtrack south to Kamakura Station.  I still want to see two more temples, but the light is running out and I’m not sure I’ll make it.

the long walk to Kita-Kamakura

Finally, I reach Tokei-ji Temple, founded by Kakuzan Shidoni, wife of the eighth regent, Hojo Tokimune, of the Kamakura Shogunate.  It’s nearly 4:00 by now and the temple closes at 4:30.  I expect the man at the gate will tell me I don’t have to pay, but he still happily collects my entrance fee.

In the era when wives could not cut marital ties with their husbands without a letter of divorce from the husbands, the temple, where women could seek asylum to divorce their husbands, had kept following the “Divorce Temple Act” for nearly 600 years since its foundation.  When the “Divorce Temple Act” came to an end during the Meiji period, Shakusoen Zenji re-founded the temple to make it a Zen temple of the Enkakuji school of Rinzai Sect.

Buddha at Tokei-ji Temple (The Divorce Temple)

Buddha at Tokei-ji Temple

The temple is famous for graves of many scholars and writers.

path up Mt. Shoko

graves at Tokei-ji Temple

graves at Tokei-ji Temple

moss-covered path at Tokei-ji Temple

On a platform above the cemetery is the grave of the wife of the Regent Hojo Tokimune, who founded the Engaku-ji Temple.  On this platform are also tombs of various abbesses and nuns.

small platform with tombs of abbesses and nuns

in front of the memorial hall at Tokei-ji Temple

in front of the memorial hall at Tokei-ji Temple

Since I leave Tokei-ji at the 4:30 closing time, I am doubtful that I can see the last temple on my walk, Engaku-ji Temple, near Kita-Kamakura.  I don’t even bother trying as it’s a little off the road and I’m beat. Besides, I’ve been told that there are many more temples north of Kencho-ji which I should visit during the middle of June when the hydrangeas are in bloom.  In addition, there is the Daibutsuzaka Hiking Course which leads from these temples to the Daibutsu, or the Great Buddha at Hase.  Also, south of Kamakura is Enoshima Beach, another place that is a “must-see.”

I guess I will have to plan several more trips to Kamakura in June.

On Monday when I go to class, I tell my students I walked over 16 km from Kamakura to KITI-Kamakura.  They look at me funny and then burst out laughing.  It’s not KITI-Kamakura, they tell me, it’s KITA-Kamakura.  We all have a good laugh over my mispronunciation of yet another Japanese name!

Total steps today: 24,696 (10.47 miles).  🙂

kamakura to kita-kamakura: temples, shrines & peonies {walking tour 23: part 1}   6 comments

Sunday, April 23: It’s a beautiful Sunday in Japan, so I’m off for a walk through the temples and shrines of historic Kamakura. After taking the metro from Fuchinobe to Yokohama, I switch lines to the Yokosuka Line and go six more stops to Kamakura.

On the Yokosuka line, I chat the whole time with a 20-year-old Japanese boy named Yuki (I thought that was a girl’s name; I’m always getting confused by which names are male and female in Japan!); he is on his way to a BBQ on Enoshima beach with his friends. His English is excellent, and he tells me he’s traveled to Spain, Italy and Australia.  I’ve already encountered so many internationally minded Japanese in my short time here.

Although Kamakura proper is today rather small, it is often described in history books as a former de facto capital of Japan; it was the seat of the Shogunate and of the Regency during the Kamakura period (1185-1333).  This period marks the governance by the Kamakura shogunate, officially established in 1192 by the first shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, and it is known for the emergence of the samurai, the warrior caste, and for the establishment of feudalism in Japan. When the shogunate was destroyed in 1333, imperial rule under Emperor Go-Daigo was reestablished for a short time (Wikipedia: Kamakura).

Kamakura was designated as a city on November 3, 1939.

When I walk out of Kamakura Station, I veer south to see one temple before I walk north along Wakamiya Oji, the grand walkway leading to the famous and imposing Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu.  I encounter a small shrine that isn’t on my official “Walking Tour 23: Kamakura and Hase” from Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City. The shrine itself isn’t that photogenic, but the gardens and the ivy-covered buildings around it are striking against the blue sky.

This is the Daigyoji Temple.  Before the end of the Muromachi period (16th century), the chief priest of this temple, Priest Nitto, held a memorial service for the wife of Akiyama Kageyu, who had died in childbirth.  From that time, people come to worship the “Ubusume Deity,” the Goddess of Childbirth, said to protect women from suffering during childbirth.

view from temple

I find my way to Hongaku-ji Temple, built in 1436.  It sits on the site where the priest Nichiren lived after returning from exile in 1274.  He was exiled to the island of Sado in the Japan Sea for being against Zen Buddhism, which angered the pro-Zen Hojo regents, who ruled Japan from Kamakura. Later, they forgave him and allowed Nichiren to return to Kamakura.  Two centuries later, in 1407, a portion of this anti-establishment priest’s ashes were placed here, making the temple an important pilgrimage site for believers in the Nichiren sect of Buddhism.

Hongaku-ji Temple

sakura at Hongaku-ji Temple

The temple grounds also hold the grave of Masamune, a famed medieval swordsmith. Each year, the temple hosts a demonstration of sword making in Masamune’s honor, with the swordsmith decked out in the white robes of a Shinto priest.  Thus this ceremony with Shinto overtones, held on the grounds of a Buddhist temple, is a casual mixing of Japan’s two major faiths, reflecting Japanese flexibility when it comes to religious beliefs.

The ceremonial path of Wakamiya Oji is known as the Young Prince’s Way.  It was created in 1180 by Minamoto Yoritomo, the first Kamakura shogun, as an offering to the gods for the successful pregnancy of his wife, Masako.  Though the walkway starts at Yuigahama Beach, 1.4km south of Kamakura Station, I don’t start at the origin. Kamakura Station, where I get off, is near the first red torii.  From the sea to the first red torii, Wakamiya Oji is a commercial roadway; after the torii, the road narrows and splits, and is laid out on either side of a raised promenade.

The long promenade from the sea and the vermillion shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu sitting on the green hillside at the end were meant to impress any visitors to the shogun’s government of the 13th and 14th centuries.

At the red torii where the raised promenade begins, two stone koma-inu (Korean lion-dogs) stand fiercely to prevent evil from encroaching on the path.

koma-inu and vermillion torii at Wakamiya Oji

It just so happens that I find a gaggle of Western girls dressed in kimono taking turns posing in front of the first red torii.

white girls in kimono at Wakamiya Oji

vermillion torii at Wakamiya Oji

As I stroll down the promenade, I get a glimpse of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu at the end.

Wakamiya Oji

As I pass through the second vermillion torii, I come to the extremely steep half-moon Taiko-bashi bridge at Gempei Ponds.  The bridge is closed off, but it is said that success in crossing this bridge assures that a wish will be granted.

the Taiko-bashi bridge at Gempei Ponds

There are two ponds, one on either side of the Taiko-bashi bridge, but I only visit the one to the right (east). There’s a lot of complicated history about the two ponds and their symbolism in history, which you can read about here. As soon as I begin to walk around the right hand pond, the Genji-kie, the pond of the victorious Minamoto clan of Yoritomo, I am stopped and required to pay an admission fee of 500 yen.  I find, much to my surprise, that the peonies are in bloom here, and because of that, a fee must be paid.  This is a pleasant surprise as I’ve always been partial to peonies, and these are particularly charming because of the iconic Japanese umbrellas shading the flowers from the sun.

Genji-ike, or Genji Pond

Genji-ike, or Genji Pond

It’s truly peony heaven on the shores of this Kamakura pond.

Peony heaven

azaleas

white peony

umbrellas for the peonies

charming umbrellas

umbrellas and pergolas

pink peony

The island on the right holds a shrine to the Shinto deity Benten.  It’s pretty because of all the white banners and the wisteria on the pergola near the shrine.

wishes at the shrine to the Shinto deity Benten

wisteria and shrine to the Shinto deity Benten

ema at the shrine

shrine to the Shinto deity Benten

white flags

white wisteria

After walking the perimeter of the pond, I am ready to visit the famous Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, but before reaching the 61-steps leading to it, I stop to admire the wall-less, roofed Shimo Haiden, the Lower Shrine Prayer Hall, which looks much like a stage. Here, Minamoto Yoritomo, who violently hated his younger and more popular brother, Yoshitsune, forced his brother’s pregnant mistress to dance in hopes she would have a miscarriage. Shizuka Gozen, the brother’s mistress, sang of her love for Yoshitsune in defiance of Yoritomo; he was enraged and would have killed Shizuka if his wife, Masako, hadn’t prevented him from doing so. When Shizuka eventually gave birth to a son, he was immediately put to death at Yoritomo’s order.

Shimo Haiden

Shimo Haiden

Shimo Haiden

small shrine

By happenstance, I cross paths with a bride and groom walking south from the staircase.

wedding procession

wedding in progress

scholarly type

Common at every Shinto shrine are wooden sake barrels, known as sakedaru, wrapped in straw blankets and stacked and bounded together by rope on a wooden frame.  Such barrels, which are actually empty, are called kazaridaru, which means “decoration barrels.”  Shinto shrines and sake manufacturers maintain a symbiotic relationship in which the shrines conduct rites to ask the gods for the prosperity of the brewers, and the brewers donate the sake that shrines need for ceremonies and festivals.

The Japanese believe that sake acts as a symbolic unification of Gods and people, according to The Japan Times: Sake barrels at shrines.

sake barrels, or kazaridaru  (decoration barrels)

sake barrels

Finally, I reach the staircase, but before climbing, I admire the huge ginkgo tree that was supposedly planted 1,000 years ago; it blew down in 2010.  There is an intriguing story about the tree and the blood vengeance so common during that period: here the 3rd Minamoto shogun, Sanetomo, was assassinated by his nephew, Kugyo, who had hidden himself behind the tree. Thus, it is also called Hiding Ginkgo.

61 steps to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

Ema at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

the ginkgo tree that was

Finally, I climb the steps to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, the Hachiman shrine to the deity of the city of Kamakura.  When founded in 1063, it sat beside the sea, and honored the Shinto god of war.  The shrine to Hachiman also celebrates both the Emperor Ojin, who is said to have reigned from 270-319, and his mother, the Empress Jingu.  A long and complicated history is attached to this shrine, which you can read about here.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

At the top of the steps I take a picture of the shrine from the center point, but I’m admonished by the guard that I’m only allowed to take pictures from the side.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

I always love to inspect the ema I find at each shrine.  Each has its own colorful character.

Ema at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

After leaving Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, I climb steps up a small hill through a tunnel of torii gates to the Maruyama Inari Shrine, dedicated to the Shinto deity of commerce; it attracts worshipers desiring success in business affairs.

Maruyama Inari Shrine

Maruyama Inari Shrine

torii at Maruyama Inari Shrine

Maruyama Inari Shrine

Walking back past the staircase, I head east to visit several shrines a little more off the beaten track.  Before I do, I pass this shrine, but I don’t know what it is.

Shrine near Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

Near the shrine is a chōzuya or temizuya, a Shinto water ablution pavilion for a ceremonial purification rite known as temizu.  These are used by worshippers for washing their left hands, right hands, mouth and finally the handle of the water ladle to purify themselves before approaching the main Shinto shrine. This symbolic purification is normal before worship and all manned shrines have this facility, as well as many Buddhist temples and some new religious houses of worship. The temizuya is usually an open area where clear water fills one or various stone basins. Wooden dippers are usually available to worshippers. (Wikipedia: Chōzuya)

a purification fountain

leaving the shrine area for Yabusame-baba

I leave the shrine complex to follow the path down Yabusame-baba, through cozy Japanese neighborhoods, toward the grave of Yoritomo.

yokohama: points north {walking tour 20: part 2)   19 comments

Saturday, April 15:  Heading inland from Yamashita Park, I come to Port Opening Square, which commemorates the the 1854 treaty between the U.S. and Japan at what was at that time a small village on Yokohama Bay.  The square has fountains, flowers and trees and a memorial to U.S.-Japanese Friendship.

Monument to U.S. – Japanese Friendship

Monument to U.S. – Japanese Friendship

Yokohama Kaigan Kyokai, on the border of Port Opening Square, was founded on March 10, 1872, as the first Protestant church for the Japanese in this country.

Yokohama Kaigan Kyokai

Continuing inland on Minato-odori, I pass the Yokohama Archives of History, established on June 2, 1981, at the historic site where Japan and the U.S. signed the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854; it exhibits historical materials from the Edo period to the Taisho-Showa era.

Yokohama Archives of History

All along Kaigan-dori, I find miniature garden dioramas under the auspices of the “Spring Flower Festa.”  I can’t read any of the Japanese, so I can’t tell what each one represents.

Kanagawa Prefectural Office (The King) is one of the Three Towers, a group of historical towers at the Port of Yokohama. They have been given the nicknames The King, The Queen and The Jack.

Kanagawa Prefectural Office

As I approach Yokohama Park, I hear crowds roaring and yelling before I can even see the Stadium, which opened in 1978, holds 30,000 people, and is used primarily for baseball. It’s noisy and I don’t really feel like walking through the park with that stadium in it.  By this time my legs are killing me, so when I find a Starbucks on the corner across from the park, I sit at the window bar and enjoy a slice of orange cake and a peach smoothie drink.  After a bit of a rest, I am greeted by some pretty tulips dancing in the wind on the border of the park.

tulips at Yokohama Park

tulips at Yokohama Park

tulips at Yokohama Park

After leaving Yokohama Park, I walk parallel to the harbor (quite far inland) for several blocks, and then turn toward the harbor again on Basha-michi.  This is a very long stretch, with the road eventually turning into Bankokubashi-dori, and I wonder if I’ll ever get back to the harbor.  Finally, after what seems an eternity, I reach Shinko Pier, and my book of trusty walks informs me I’ve “left the first part of the tour, which covers the old center of Yokohama, the Kannai (Inside the Checkpoint) sector, in which foreigners were at first restricted to this transplanted foreign community within Japan” (Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City).

At the western end of Shinko Pier is the huge steel Ferris wheel I spotted from as far away as the south end of Yamashita Park.  It’s part of the Yokohama Cosmo World Amusement Park; the wheel takes 15 minutes to complete a full circle.

Ferris Wheel at Yokohama Cosmo World Amusement Park

Yokohama’s Ferris Wheel

Past Cosmo World, I cross a bridge and can immediately see the 32-floor sail-shaped Yokohama Grand Intercontinental Hotel.  Between the Ferris wheel and the hotel, Yokohama’s skyline is whimsical and welcoming.

The Yokohama Grand Intercontinental Hotel

Waterway around Shinko Pier

a children’s area, which seems to be part of Cosmo World, is at the base of Yokohama’s Queen’s Square

I make my way through the National Convention Hall complex, a sprawling building of no particular interest, to Seaside Park (Rinko Park), which looks out over Yokohama Harbor from the north side.  At this point, I’ve seen Yokohama Harbor from south to north. Beside the Convention Hall is the Yokohama Grand Intercontinental.  Rinko Park is a little scruffy and has just a smattering of folks sitting on the concrete steps lining the harbor side walkway or picnicking on the grass.

Yokohama Grand Intercontinental

From here, I get a good view of the 1989 Yokohama Bay Bridge, a suspension bridge that extends 860 metres (2,821 feet) from shore to shore.

View of Yokohama Bay Bridge from Rinko Park

view north from Rinko Park

I leave the rather unimpressive Rinko Park and head inland, passing the Convention Hall to my left and walking several blocks past modern but characterless apartment buildings.

walking inland north of the National Convention Hall

residences?

I reach the inviting wide pedestrian walkway, with fountains and sculptures, bordered by the Yokohama Museum of Art and Landmark Tower on one side, and a huge modern shopping complex on the other.

Landmark Tower at the Minato Mirai 21 Complex

I don’t have time to visit the Yokohama Museum of Art today, but at least I know where it is for a rainy day.  This 1989 museum is the second largest art museum in Japan.  Its permanent collection includes paintings by Cezanne, Magritte, Dali, and Japanese artists, as well as paintings related to Yokohama. It was designed by Kenzō Tange, a Japanese architect, and winner of the 1987 Pritzker Prize for architecture.

Landmark Tower and the Yokohama Museum of Art

Yokohama Museum of Art

The 70-story Landmark Tower is supposedly Yokohama’s best known sight.  Designed by American architect Hugh Stebbins, it has a 5-story-high central atrium, with offices and the Royal Park Hotel above.  Over 200 shops and restaurants are also inside.

sculptural detail and Landmark Tower

Landmark Tower

Fancy sculpture at Landmark Tower

I continue my walk through this huge complex, with a glimpse of the Ferris wheel from a different angle.

The Ferris Wheel from the Landmark Tower side

I pass the Nippon Maru training ship docked in an 1896 ships’ basin of stone.  Built in 1930, the Nippon Maru was a sailing vessel used to train naval students.  It circled the globe 46 times before it was decommissioned in 1984.

Nippon Maru training ship

Nippon Maru training ship

Hard Rock Cafe

After passing the Hard Rock Cafe, I realize I need to walk through Landmark Tower to get to Sakuragicho Station. At the basement level, I walk past shops and restaurants and bakeries until I finally emerge on the other side, on a pedestrian walkway over the Metropolitan Expressway K1 Yokohama Route.

Yokohama overpass

My plan is to cross through Sakuragicho Station (two stops  northwest of where I got off this morning) to continue the rest of the walk to Kangai (Beyond the Checkpoint), which is the original area for Japanese citizens when Yokohama was founded.

view heading toward Sakuragicho Station

As I cross into this area, I can see remnants of the old Yokohama, with its food stalls and red lanterns.  If I continue the walk, I should see two parks, a temple, a shrine, and shopping areas.  I walk for almost one kilometer, but it’s getting darker bit by bit, and I keep thinking I should get back on metro and go two stops south to where I started the walk, at Ishikawacho Station near Chinatown.  After all, I did promise the shopkeeper at Amina Collection that I’d return to buy a few things. 🙂

Noge District

I’m getting awfully tired by this time, and have walked 20,000+ steps, or over 9 miles.  This part of town looks confusing, as it’s not laid out on a grid pattern like the more modern part of Yokohama. To be honest, I have no idea which direction I should go to find the Nogeyama Fudoson Temple, the first place on my walk, and  I’m too tired to figure it out.  I decide instead to cut this part of the walk short.  After all, I can easily continue another day, as I live less than an hour from Yokohama.

Noge District

Noge District

I return to Amina Collection at Chinatown (how I have the energy for this, I have no idea, but when shopping calls, I must listen!), where I buy a blue kimono jacket with orange flowers, a lavender blouse with aqua embroidery on the sleeves, and a royal blue cotton top with bell sleeves.  The two tops are “one size fits all” and are rather billowy.  The shopkeeper, the same thin hippie-ish Japanese girl with the turban and the maize-colored skirt, is still there, and she helps me with the purchase.  She can speak and understand English, so she talks nonstop.  However, her pronunciation is so abysmal that I can only decipher a few words here and there.  She’s very nice and encourages me to go to the tax-free office to get reimbursed for the tax I paid, but it’s in the opposite direction to metro, and I am just too exhausted to bother.

I take the train back to Sakuragicho Station, where I have to change to the JR Yokohama green line.  I’m not positive I’m on the right train when I get on, so I ask a man sitting directly across from me: “Machida?”  There are two lines at that station, one to Tokyo and one in the direction of Machida; this one is nearly empty and we sit at the station for quite a while as the train originates here.  The man across from me, who introduces himself as Kaz, can speak English very well, and he asks me where I’m from and what I am doing in Japan.  Since he is speaking across the train to me, he asks if he can come sit next to me. He is all dressed in proper business attire; white shirt, tie, black suit; he informs me he has spent the day at the National Convention Hall at a medical products convention.  I tell him I had walked past the convention hall earlier in my walk and I show him the map of today’s walk; I admit I’m exhausted as I walked about 10 miles.  He says he sells medical imaging technology and tells me about technologies at the conference such as cryo-ablation (freezing of tumors) and RFA (Radio Frequency Ablation, or burning of tumors).  He says both treatments result in the tumor dissolving, due to the normal body temperature and the treatment.  We talk the entire time back to Fuchinobe, about all kinds of things.  He sheepishly tells me at one point, with exasperation but humor, that talking to me all this time has exhausted him; he’s not used to thinking and speaking so much in English, although he seems quite natural at it.  He has clients all over the world in many Western and Asian countries, so he is actually used to speaking in English.

We both admit when we part ways that the 1-hour train ride back from Yokohama seemed much shorter because of our conversation; I know has been enjoyable for both of us.

When I finally arrive back to Fuchinobe, I grab a bite to eat at a basement restaurant that serves sushi and beer and chicken grilled on sticks, and then I ride by bicycle home, exhausted and yet exhilarated by the entire day’s adventure. 🙂

Total steps today: 23,784 (10.08 miles).

 

 

yokohama: chinatown and yamashita park {walking tour 20: part 1}   23 comments

Saturday, April 15:  This morning, I head for Yokohama at around 10 a.m., taking the JR Yokohama Green Line to Sakuragicho Station, then changing to the Negishi Line for Ishikawacho Station. When I ride my bike to park at Fuchinobe Station, I find an attendant there charging 100 yen to park: I guess it’s only free on Sundays.  Oh well, 100 yen is hardly going to bankrupt me.

It is easy to find the beginning of Walking Tour 20 (Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City) at Chinatown’s Nishimon-dori (West Gate Street), as it’s right outside the station and there are signs pointing the direction.  The 11:15 start to my walk is later than I intended.  Little do I know I’ll end up walking over 10 miles today, from the south of Yokohama to the north, all along Yokohama Bay and in and out on a circuitous route through the city streets.

The West Gate of Chinatown

Yokohama’s Chinatown, or Chūkagai, is the largest of three Chinatowns in Japan, followed by Nagasaki and Kobe.  It was set aside by the Japanese government in 1863 and now has about 3-4,000 residents, mostly descendants of Chinese from Guangzhou who came as servants of Western merchants or as traders.  Some acted as treasurers to Western firms, while others came as craftsmen who could make clothing and other essentials needed by foreigners. When war broke out between China and Japan in 1937, the growth of Chinatown came to a standstill, but it started thriving again in 1955, when a large goodwill gate was built and Chinatown was officially recognized by Japan.

Yokohama’s Chinatown

Almost immediately, I’m enticed into a three-story shop called Amina Collection.  It has cute clothing, accessories and home decor mainly imported from India and Nepal.  Why it’s in Chinatown, I don’t know; the shopkeeper, who has her hair wrapped in a large turban and wears a maize-colored flowing skirt, tells me her corporation owns many similar shops in Japan.  What I really love are the incense aromas and the whimsical and enchanting music piped in through the shop.  I ask the shopkeeper if they sell the CD with the music playlist, but unfortunately for me, she says the owner downloaded the playlist to an MP3.  I also find some cute tops and kimono toppers (the kind of kimono cover-ups sold in America, not traditional Japanese kimono).  Since I’m just starting my walk and don’t want to buy anything yet, I tell the shopkeeper I’ll return later.  At this time, I think the walk will bring me full circle back to Ishikawacho Station, where I can easily return to shop before heading home.

 

I continue into Chinatown, overwhelmed by crimson and yellow signs, fierce dragons twisting and turning on buildings and signs, shops with Chinese lanterns and masks, huge restaurant boards with pictures of enticing dishes, and touts in front of each restaurant beckoning tourists in.  It is getting to be lunchtime, but my stomach takes a turn at the thought of eating Chinese food.  When I was in China, I was sick almost constantly from the food, but I think maybe in Japan the Chinese food will be fine.  After all, the Chinese restauranteurs must cook to Japanese tastes, just like they cook to American tastes in the USA.

North Gate

Restaurant in Chinatown

 

Though the large multi-ingredient dishes look mouth-watering, I figure maybe I can stick to something like steamed dumplings that aren’t cooked in oil. My hunger gets the best of me, and I drop into a tiny joint where I order three shrimp steamed dumplings with a Pepsi.  It costs nearly $10 for that tiny meal, which is meant to sustain me all day.  After I leave the restaurant, my stomach immediately cramps up and I wonder if it’s because of the food or just my fear of eating Chinese again.

Those stomach cramps are to stay with me the rest of the day, yet I end up walking over 10 miles. 🙂

Yokohama’s Chinatown

a pagoda in Chinatown

East Gate

After lunch, I’m in search of the Kantei-Byo.  The original temple, known as the Kuan-Ti Mao Temple, suffered many disasters.  It was built in 1887, destroyed by the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, and suffered damages during the 1945 Allies air attack. In 1981, it was struck by lighting and caught fire. It burned down again in 1987, and finally, was reconstructed in 1990 as Kantei-Byo despite the political differences of the Taiwan and Beijing Chinese.

According to Japan Travel, Kantei-Byo is dedicated to the famous Chinese warrior “Kanwu,” who excelled in the areas of power, courage, justice, and loyalty, as well as business. For all these reasons, the people of Chinatown follow Kanwu as their “God of Business.”  However, another source, my book Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City, says the new shrine is dedicated to Sangokushi; to him, the Chinese can pray for good fortune and good business.  Oh well, whomever a person prays too, he’s sure to be successful in business. 🙂

I finally find the temple, with a huge Coke Zero truck parked in front.  The light doesn’t favor this view, so I go immediately into the temple courtyard.

Kantei-Byo

Kantei-Byo

Two golden dragons greet me on the wall of the temple.

Dragons at Kantei-Byo

I love the wonderful details under the eaves of Chinese temples.

Kantei-Byo

The visitors to the temple light incense sticks and bow and pray to the gods within.

incense burner at Kantei-Byo

Here’s the view from the temple to the outside gate. Much better than the outside-to-inside shot with the Coke Zero truck.

Kantei-Byo

I find colorful and intricate architectural details and relief carvings under the temple’s eaves.

 

Inside the temple is gorgeous, but they want 100 yen to go inside and I’m not allowed to take pictures.  If I were allowed to take pictures, I’d gladly pay the entrance fee, but as I can see the altar from outside, that’s enough for me.

Kantei-Byo

incense at Kantei-Byo

Kantei-Byo

Just outside the temple, I find another in the line of Amina shops and I go inside to try on more cute tops. The two salesgirls look so cute, I can’t help but try on tops in the shop that are similar.  They look terrible on me, sadly.  I guess when you’re super tiny, you can get away with wearing anything!

Outside the shop, I encounter these two characters, one of them next to a wide-mouth panda entrance.

a cool character near the East Gate

creature with wide-mouthed panda

Another Chinatown gate

Finally, I make my way out of Chinatown and head to the waterfront.  First, I encounter the memorial commemorating the Reverend James Curtis Hepburn, a medical Protestant missionary who created the first Japanese-English dictionary in 1867 and Romanized the Japanese characters.  He often treated Japanese and Chinese patients for free in his house if they couldn’t afford payment.  The memorial marks his and his wife’s work from 1859-1892.

Hepburn Memorial Marker

The south end of Yamashita Park extends 2/3 mile from the Yamashita Pier to the Osanbashi Pier.  To cover the flood control pumping station at the south end, a raised platform has an ornamental water cascade that extends from the upper level to street level.

south end of Yamashita Park

 

At street level, the ornamental water cascade ends in a pretty pool.

ornamental water cascade at Yamashita Park

From Yamashita Park, I can see Yokohama Harbor.  Today is the perfect day for a walk, with temperatures in the high 60s and a brisk wind.  How I love windy days when the temperature is right.

view of Yokohama Harbor from Yamashita Park

Looking inland, I can see the buildings fronting the park. The Marine Tower was belatedly constructed in 1961 to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Yokohama’s founding in 1859.  There is an observation deck at the 100-meter level, but I don’t go up today.  At 106 meters is a lighthouse lamp visible over the bay for 24 miles; it is the biggest inland lighthouse in the world.

Marine Tower

General MacArthur stayed at the Hotel New Grand on the evening of August 30, 1945 to begin his stint as the commander of the occupying American forces in Japan.  Also from the hotel, he boarded the USS Missouri battleship on September 2, 1945 to accept the Japanese surrender, thus ending World War II.

Hotel New Grand

A fancy rose and flower garden in the park invites a stroll.

gardens at Yamashita Park

Along the harborside walkway, I can see the north part of Yokohama.

view of northern Yokohama and Yokohama Harbor

Off a small pier south of Osanbashi Pier, the Hikawa-maru, a luxury ocean liner built in Yokohama in 1930 is permanently moored.  It made 238 crossings between Japan and the U.S. West Coast from 1930-1960.  It is now retired from service.

The Hikawa-Maru

Yamashita Park and the Hotel New Grand

The Guardian of the Waters statue was a gift from sister city San Diego to Yokohama and its people.

Guardian of the Waters

Guardian of the Waters

YOKOHAMA 2017

tulip mania at Yamashita Park

tulips at Yamashita Park

Looking south along the waterside walkway, I can see the 1989 Yokohama Bay Bridge.

Yokohama Bay Bridge and view of the North Dock

a ship in port

As I approach the north end of Yamashita Park, I have a better view of Yokohama with its iconic Ferris wheel.

looking to the north

The Osanbashi Pier is at the north end of Yamashita Park.  From here, I’ll be heading inland.

Osanbashi Pier

Here are a few notes on how I get to places in the Tokyo area without access to GPS:

Westgate provides teachers with a phone, but we’re only allowed to use it to make calls to a pre-programmed list of numbers.  We are not allowed to use it to call anyone who is not programmed into the phone.  We can accept calls, but we can’t make them.  Besides, it is an old-fashioned flip-phone and not a smart phone with fancy features like GPS.

I have my iPhone from the U.S., but so far I haven’t had the need to get a pre-paid SIM card for my phone.  As long as I have access to wi-fi, at home and at work, I can use the phone for data or messaging.  I was advised that I can Google directions to a destination by just entering in the beginning station (in my case Fuchinobe) and the end station, and I can get directions as to when to switch trains, how many stops between stations, etc.  I can even get a timetable.

The problem of course is that I don’t get GPS when I’m out and about.  My phone is worthless at these times.  So, before leaving my house, I look up the information and take screen shots of the train route.  Below is a version of how I made today’s trip.  I have another screen shot that expands the 12 stops so I can know exactly which stops I’ll be passing, so I can be on the lookout for my particular stop. So far this method is working pretty well for me. 🙂

 

my metro directions screen-shot from Google Maps

 

aoyama gakuin university   5 comments

Wednesday, April 12: I’ve almost finished my first full week of teaching with Westgate Corporation at Aoyama Gakuin University Sagamihara Campus.  My employer is actually Westgate, and they hire us out to the university.  The university’s program is a two-year program within the School of Global Studies and Collaboration; I teach second year students who will be going on a study abroad in the fall semester to either Malaysia or Thailand.  We’re supposed to help them improve their English skills for their study abroad program; this program is meant to enhance their understanding of different cultures.

Here are some pictures of the campus.

Aoyama Gakuin University Sagimahara Campus

According to the university website, the university was founded in 1949, offering an education in line with “the founding spirit” based on the Christian faith. The aim is to nurture individuals with a strong sense of social responsibility and morality to contribute to ever-changing society. The university is also strongly committed to language education and international exchange to promote international understanding.

Aoyama Gakuin University Sagimahara Campus

Though the university was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church, and there is a chapel on campus, neither students nor faculty are actually required to be of the Christian faith.  However, we can hear church music and bells on campus, and students have a special chapel time set aside each day.

the chapel on campus

Our teacher office is in the building on the right in the photo below, and the huge cafeteria is on the left.  Bento boxes are offered by kiosks, prepared meals are sold in the 7-11 on-site, and hot meals are sold in the sprawling cafeteria.  There are displays of the food, and machines that list the price and the dish in Japanese (machines on one wall name them in English, thank goodness).  You push a button on the machine, put in your Yen, and then collect a ticket.  At the back, you take your ticket to one of the serving stations depending on what you ordered: a station for udon, ramen, soba, fish or chicken dinner, etc.  You then stand in line, hand your ticket to the ladies behind the counter, and they serve you up!

Aoyama Gakuin University Sagimahara Campus

the chapel

the chapel

the chapel

I have three classes of 18-20 students, 56 students altogether.  I teach all three classes for 90 minutes each on Monday, Thursday and Friday; on Tuesday and Wednesday, the three classes are spread out over two days, giving us some planning time.  I plan four classes a week (repeating the lesson for each of my three classes).  I work 9:30-6;30 on M-W-F and 8:40-5:40 on Tu-Th.

If it seems confusing, you’re right, it is.  I have to keep referring to my schedule to see when I work and where I go to teach and which classes I have.  But, that is always the nature of teaching.

So far my students are a pleasure and seem eager to improve their English for their upcoming study abroad.

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