Walking Around Archives

Cherry Blossom Viewing

My time in Japan has come to an end.  However, there were a few things I decided I needed to do before I left.  Seeing the cheery blossoms was one of those things.  As often happens in my time overseas, a holiday snuck up on me.  (In Japan many of the American holidays are not celebrated or advertised in shops as much as American malls do so it is easy for American or Christian holidays to sneak up on an American in Japan.)  This holiday was Easter.  So during Holy Week I was trying to decide what to do for Easter so far from family and with my friends busy.  Then it occured to me: this was the first year in the three that I’ve been in Japan that I was in the country during April.  April in Japan in cherry blossom season. What better thing to do on Easter than to view God’s gift of cherry blossoms for the first time?  The closest place to my house for viewing cherry blossoms is Kamakura,  Japan, a twenty minute train ride from my place in Yokosuka, Japan.  So I got on the train

Me posing in the Yokosuka train station with the blue pillars behind me.

Time for a ride!

 in the late morning, arriving in time for me to look for lunch.  So, what to have for lunch?  Kamakura is a lovely town built up as a tourist town with a large temple built as a royal shrine when Kamakura was the capital of Japan and the other end of the main street is a lovely beach.  Since it was a tourist town, I could have gotten most of the Japanese dishes for lunch that day.  However, I wasn’t in the mood to search for a fancy lunch with unusual flavors so , after a walk to see what was available, I sat down at a conveyor belt sushi place.
Plates of raw fish over a square of rice, two pieces on a plate, circle the table around the chef creating the pieces
A conveyor belt sushi place is simply that: a room built a round a central bar-like table with the chef inside the island table and a continual selection of two pieces of sushi on plates passing on a conveyor belt.  If you see a set of sushi you like, you pick it up and eat the sushi on the plate.  If you don’t like what you see, you can order request a specific fish and the cook will prepare it for you.  You can order a drink, like soda or a beer, and you pay by the color of the plates you have stacked next to you.  If you come with a family or a group, there are tables with benches along the conveyor belt in most places so you can still eat off the conveyor or order what you want.  My most interesting pieces were some small octopuses.
Two pieces of white octopus with the tentacles spreadover rice on an orange plate
They were a little tough to chew but their textured tentacles kind of tickled going down.  I liked the taste, just like I enjoy most sushi I’ve had but it was interesting having the unusual image to look at as I ate it and the odd texture.
After the meal I went to the main walk way in town, the parkway of the main rode.

A red and silver two seat carriage pulled by a man.

A Japanese rick saw next to its driver. I saw this on the road in Kamakura and had to get a picture.

It is the long walk up to the main temple in the town and is the walkway lined with cherry trees and paper lanterns.
A large tori-i gate protected by a huge stone lion on each side.  Through the gate is a walkway lined with cherry trees in bloom.
The entrance is protected by two stone lions in front of the first Tori-i gate.  I went on a Sunday towards the end of the cherry blossom season so there were a lot of blossoms already spent
Cheery petals along a cement path
but I still saw plenty of lovely flowers.
A pathway lined with cherry blossoms and white paper lanterns
One of the other big things about Kamakura is Hato Sabure, literally Dove Shortbread, a gourmet bakery on the main street of Kamakura.
A yellow paper bag with a "dove" (looks like a white chicken)under some red Japanese lettering.
While most known for their Dove Shortbread cookies and the distinctive bag you can see carried throughout the town, they also make an assortment of other cookies.
A number of colorful cookies and bars on display
As I walked around the shopping area, I saw a lot of mom-and-pop boutiques
A shop window with vintage looking items behind glass that says MOM&POP
and found this interesting cat
A large stuffed black cat similar to the one in Kiki's Delivery Service leans on a wall next to stairs
outside a two story store specializing in movies directed by Hayao Miyazaki.  The store was named after his movie My Neighbor Totoro but also features things from his other movies such as the cat from Kiki’s Delivery Service which sits outside to draw in visitors.
It was getting late and I had work on Monday so I got back on the train
A picture of the inside of the train through a door between cars
to go to Yokosuka but I want to leave you with one more picture of those lovely flowers Japan is so known for.

A few branches of cherry blossoms in clusters

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Cigarette Vending Machines

Yes, you read correctly.  Last week I told you about the Japanese drink vending machines that are everywhere.  This week I’ll show you some of the cigarette vending machines in my neighborhood.A cigarette vending machine next to a cigarette storeThis is a cigarette vending machine next to a cigarette store.  They sell the cheaper or more common cigarettes in the vending machine open 24/7 while the tobacco store next to it is run with regular store hours.An electronic card reader next to the coin input on a cigarette vending machine.Travelers beware though, you can’t just go up to a cigarette machine and get a pack of smokes.  You need to have a card that the reader next to the cash/coin input reads to see you are of age.  Putting in coins without having a card will get you nothing.A closeup of a cigarette vending machineThese equate to roughly $5 a pack, if you have the card.

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Street Drink Vending Machines

If you walk through Japan at all you may wonder what all those huge boxes are that you pass along the sidewalks and in many doorways.  It’s impossible not to notice these drink vending machines.A typical Japanese vending machine with three rows behind a plactis windowOften in sets of two or three, most blocks  in a city have at least one vending machine on them and those who live in suburbs always have a machine within walking distance.  The drinks are usually 100 yen to 150 yen, roughly $1.20 to $2 a drink depending on the yen rate that day.A closer look at a bottled drink machine in Japan

The drinks offered in the machines are anything from warm coffee to cold coffee to teas to juices.  I once saw a pancake breakfast in a can which was rather popular at work until they got removed from the one machine they were in.  I commonly see the creamed corn in a can so that must be good and their can of hot cocoa is delicious.  All the bottles in the picture above are cold drinks, they have blue prices, but hot drinks are available in most machines.  My favorite drink from a machine is the Apple Tea from Lipton.  It is very tasty and a treat I look forward to every time I leave Japan.A bottle of Apple Tea as seen through the plastic of a vending machine.

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