It’s still me, your crazy S.Arigatò, back again to tell you more about my trip to Japan!
Last week in this post, I gave you some advices on how to visit Tokyo in 72 hours! In this second episode, I will talk about two trips that can be done in a day from the capital, without having to worry about finding a hotel but with the total comfort of staying in Tokyo for the night.
As I mentioned in my opening post, the Japan Rail Pass (JRP) is a prerequisite for a trip to Japan, not only for the bullet trains (shinkansen), but also for the standard JR railway lines.
To reach the locations I will talk about below, simply show your pass to the staff at the station and get on the right train! However, you will have to pay a small fee (220 JPY) to reach the Katase-Enoshima Station from Fujisawa Station and transfer from Enoshima to Kamakura (another 260 JPY).
Day 4: Enoshima and Kamakura
Leave early from Tokyo towards Enoshima, a very windy and rocky island populated by divers and surf lovers. The black sand beach, on either side of the bridge that connects the island to the mainland, is the meeting place of the few Japanese that love BBQ by the sea. If you feel like walking do not stop right away (because the sun really beats strong, especially in June!).
Continue to the island, always on foot, by taking the path that you will find in front of you. The usual souvenir shops along the roadside will accompany you in the ascent to the major attractions of Enoshima. If you want to buy the geta (the famous traditional Japanese sandals halfway between socket and flip-flops), this is the right time and the best place to find an affordable price (around 1500 JPY).
The island is small but reaching the top is quite tiring because of the long stairways. If you do not want to walk too much, the escalators are a good alternative, but the price (100-200 JPY for each escalator – and there are more than 10) is honestly exaggerated.
Walking along the paths that cross the island, you can enjoy the Enoshima Shrine which consists of three separate sanctuaries whose main complex includes an octagonal building, house of the three most revered statues of the Edo period in Japan (the period of the Tokugawa family from 1600 and 1900).
You can also access the -60 meters high- observation tower that acts as a lighthouse (500 JPY per visit to the tower + surrounding garden), although the real attraction are the Iwaya caves, located on the southern coast of Enoshima and containing Buddhist religious objects, representing the ancient home of the green dragon.
Unfortunately, we had to skip the tour of the caves because of the kilometric queues, and we headed instead to the southernmost point of Enoshima, looking for a panoramic view of Mount Fuji.
Once again, however, the fog got the better, but maybe you will be lucky! If you really want to see Fuji, avoid the summer months – too much haze – and opt for the evening hours!
Head back to the station for the second part of the tour: Kamakura
Little tip: if you’re looking for sushi / rice chopsticks or Japanese fans, you can make your purchases as you get back to the station from the caves, Enoshima is the cheaper place to buy souvenirs!
You can reach Kamakura with the Enoshima line train (the one that you took to get to the Enoshima, but in the opposite direction). The town is also full of shrines and temples, but I recommend you avoid “distractions” and get straight to the biggest attraction: the Daibutsu (the Great Buddha).
Crossing the main street you will find yourself in front of a restaurant / pub with outdoor seating, which reminded us of the typical beer gardens in London. I suggest you stop for a beer or a homemade lemonade while you relax on the sun and watch the train / tram travelling along the tracks in front of the pub.
If you want, you can rest your feet a bit and pick one of the many buses that take you directly to the Kōtoku-in, the Buddhist temple where you will find the statue of the Great Buddha. Unfortunately, the road ahead is often busy, so if you do not want to get stuck in the traffic, putting back in motion your legs is probably the best choice! After about 20-25 min walk from the little boutiques in Brooklyn style you will arrive at your destination. Take a deep breathe, pay the entrance fee (200 JPY) and be prepared for the show: a high bronze statue (13.35 mt) surrounded by trees you will be standing enormous in front of you, leaving you speechless!
I think I spent at least 30 minutes in search of the perfect shot, testing the view from every little angle and playing with the sun 🙂
You can also take a tour inside the statue for only 30 JPY!
Get back to the station, it’s time to go back to Tokyo! If you are not too tired, on the way to Tokyo several tour guides suggest a brief stop in Yokohama, where you can admire the futuristic skyline and the harbor area with the tallest Ferris wheel (112 meters) :O.
Day 5: Nikko
Another very popular destination for day trips from Tokyo is undoubtedly Nikko, a small town in the north-west area of the capital famous for its many shrines of the Edo period and its easy access by shinkansen (about 40 minutes from Tokyo Station ). Even if you have no particular religious interests, or if you already had enough of Buddhist and Shinto temples and shrines, believe me, the World Heritage Site of Nikko is a must!
From Nikko Station to the tourist site it takes about 20 min walk, where you will taste the charm of real Japan, with some little souvenirs shops here and there where nice old ladies -who don’t speak a single word in English- will offer you green tea sweets and loads of mini-restaurants to eat good ramen.
Arrived at the top of the climb, you will find on your left the Shin-Kyo, an ancient red bridge below which flows a stream of pure water! If you want you can cross the bridge for 300 JPY but it’s probably better to see it from the beside bridge, to make some pretty pictures.
Head to the Tosho-gu, the shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate which gives its name to the Edo period.
As you walk towards the entrance of the sanctuary, you will realize you are not alone … sometimes pretty macaques will pop up to take you some -not so nice- company! I recommend you do not approach their children, parents get angry!
The entrance cost at the Tosho-gu complex is 1300 JPY, but just passed the entrance torii you will understand why … inside, immersed in the woods, you will find more than a dozen Shinto and Buddhist buildings, with various decorations in gold and wood.
If you fancy, with just a few minutes walk, you will find the Rinno-ji shrine (300 JPY), famous for its three gold buddhas. It is one of the most important buildings in Nikko, but the outside is not one of the most beautiful to see, especially if you arrive, like we did, during the renovation of the main facade 😀
Head to the Futurasan-Jinja, a Shinto wooden shrine with lovely gardens and small waterfalls decorated with little white stones on which are inscribed the prayers of the believers.
If the Tosho-gu hasn’t impressed you enough, I recommend not to miss this last hidden gem: walk about 15 min along the river until you get to the Kanman-ga-Fuki Abyss, a narrow gorge River known for its 70 stone statues of Jizo, the bodhisattva (entity that take care of the dead) arranged in a row.
Each statue has its own red cap (which is the protection cap made by the mothers of children who died 🙁 ). They believe the red colour is useful to cast out demons and diseases.
In this quiet place in the woods, away from the myriads of tourists and with only the noise of the water stream keeping you company, stop a few minutes: clear your mind from any negative thoughts and take a deep breathe. This is a great break from the confusion that accompanied your tour of Japan!
Get back to Nikko Station (this time you can indulge in one of the frequent buses that run along the river near the Shin-Kyo Bridge) and go back to Tokyo for the evening.
In the next post, I will give you some advices on places to eat and stay in Tokyo, along with various curiosities and pictures!
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