Dîner Français and the First Kamakura Shogun

Fourth in a series that began with Road Trip (Railroad That Is) and continued with Putting On Airs followed by The Pirates of Ashinoko ...

Having left Hakone by train, we arrived at Kamakura station in the early evening. We were having a fast paced trip and while I am perfectly capable of navigating by myself around Japan (I did so for nearly a month once many moons ago) it takes me at least three times as long to buy a ticket, and find the right train or station or exit if I am on my own. K makes it happen much more smoothly, though that puts the burden of reading all the signs and timetables and so forth on her shoulders. I am sure that sometimes she must wonder whether she is my 'SO' (significant other) or my volunteer tour guide. "Better keep carrying the bags", I tell myself, "lest I lose my usefulness".

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While my long narratives may make it seem otherwise, we were only near the end of the second day of the trip. We walked from the station over to Wakamiya-oji, a wide avenue with raised pedestrian walk down the center that is lined with cherry trees, and headed toward our lodgings for the night - a sort of condo/hotel. After a brief respite in the room, we started thinking about what everyone does on such a vacation. Hey! Not that. I am referring of course to DINNER.

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We discussed some options and K lead us toward a Japanese restaurant on Komachi Dori, the next street over. We looked at other places we saw along the way, just in case. When we arrived, it appeared the restaurant had either closed or changed from what she expected (there was a mild disturbance in the "east-west communication continuum" that evening so I'm not sure which), so we circled back and kept looking. We came upon a French restaurant -"Habitue" - for the second time and took a look at the chalkboard on the sidewalk which had a couple of specials that were of interest. The price was more than we usually fork out for dinner, but not huge, and we were in a mood to have something special. Up the stairs to the restaurant on the second floor we were greeted by the owner/chef, and a totally empty restaurant. Well, there were only 16 or so seats, but it was all ours. The owner was working alone for whatever reason and what ensued was most unique experience.

Very cool jazz piano music was coming over the speakers at just the right volume - enough to enjoy it, but without interfering with our conversation. We started with a delicious wholegrain sourdough French bread. Next was a Mozzarella cheese salad with cherry tomatoes and a vinegar and apple jelly dressing. Then came a cold pumpkin soup. Between each dish I could see the chef working through the kitchen door. We each had a glass of Chardonnay with the main dish, which was sea bream, oyster on the half shell, and okra in a wonderful sauce. Dessert was a very light coconut parfait with plum, kiwi, and peaches. We finished with a cup of herbal tea blend - there was a choice of four - that came from Sweden - I forgot to write down the name. Other people showed up while we were dining, but as there was a lack of help, they were told to come back later. We felt very special. And the food? - délicieuse.

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If you recall, the French dinner at Fujiya Hotel in Hakone that we passed on was 30,000 yen for two. The total bill for this evening came to about 8200 yen ($71.00). If you are ever in Kamakura, try this restaurant. Map is HERE.

The next morning, we ate another "convenience store breakfast", checked out and headed for the train station to store our bags. (This was a top priority for me as I was very tired of schlepping our bags around, especially as I have a rotator cuff injury). We had a hard time finding lockers outside Kamakura Station that our luggage would fit into, and were lucky that an older man who works in the tourist industry (bus driver perhaps?) saw us and offered his assistance (Japan is full of helpful souls). Using his uniform, he took us past the gate monitor into the station where we otherwise would have needed a ticket to enter and showed us exactly where the lockers that we needed were located and didn't leave us until we had secured our luggage and answered any questions.

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Wakamiya-oji avenue which leads to the shrine. Note the surfboard tied to a motor scooter on the right.

Then we were off, back up Wakamiya-oji avenue to the historic shrine that marked the beginning of the Kamakura Period - Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.

The first Shogun in the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147-1199), built Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in 1180 in honor of the guardian diety of the Minamoto clan, Hachiman, and to mark his ascension to supreme Shogun following his defeat of the rival Taira Clan, making Kamakura the defacto capital of Japan for the next 150 years.

The buildings were consumed by fire in 1191 and rebuilt in its present configuration, though some buildings were rebuilt during Tokugawa Shogunate. Originally, the shrine also had Buddhist temples on its 20 acres. At that time, Shinto was seen as a Japanese manifestation of Buddhism and the two religions were practiced together.

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The arched bridge is called "drum bridge" and offer a views of two lotus ponds on either side of the main walkway.

The entrance to the shrine is flanked by lotus ponds (made by Yoritomo's wife) but there were few blossoms to enjoy at this time of year. The ponds are of different size and are called "Genpei". The larger (Gen) represents the the Minamoto clan, the smaller (Pei) represents the Taira clan. The Gen pond has 3 islands. Three in Japanese is "san", which can also mean creativity. The Pei pond has 4 islands. Four in Japanese is "shi", which can also mean death. So the ponds represent creativity to the Minamotos and death to the Tairas!

Buddhism and Shinto would later begin to be separated under the Tokugawa Shogunate and Shinto emphasized. Later still, the radicals who overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate in the Meiji Restoration of 1868 took Fukko (revived) Shinto as their ideology, and this became the new government's state creed. Shinto and Buddhism were separated by decree in 1868 and Buddhist effigies were ordered to be removed from Shinto shrines. So today, there are no Buddhist temples on Shinto shrine grounds.

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The cherry tree lined path leading to the shrine was also built for Minamoto no Yoritomo, or rather his wife, Masako. Yoritomo had two daughters and wanted a son. They made frequent trips to the shrine to pray for a boy, so when Masako became pregnant with their third child in 1182, he had the path constructed to make her walk easier. They did have a son by the way, who became the 2nd Shogun, and the name of the street, Wakamiya-oji means "Young Prince Avenue".

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A ritual dance stage at the base of the 61 steps that lead up to the main buildings.

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To one side, a wall of donated sake

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On a table in front of the worship hall (Haiden) is a box of wooden plaques which one can purchase for 500 yen. The picute of a horse (uma) represents the horses that used to be donated to shrines. On the blank back, one writes a prayer or wish then hangs the ema on a rack provided for that purpose.

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Prayers of donors hung before the Haiden

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Portable shrines used in festivals.

The beautiful vermilion lacquer finish of the building offered a pleasing contrast with the green forests surrounding them.

We exited through a side path and headed up a slope toward our next stop - perhaps the most significant of Kamakura's five great Zen Buddhist temples.

つづく (to be continued)....with "Katsu! How to Make a Zen Vacuum Cleaner"


Don Snabulus said...

There is nothing better than a quiet restaurant with wonderful food. The owner must be a hard worker!

The shrine is beautiful and I am continually impressed at how Shintos and Buddhists have interacted over time. Heck, we have a tough time getting the baptists and southern baptists to get along (however, Unitarians and the UCC seem to coexist much better).

Thanks for the great narration and pix!

QUASAR9 said...

Love my Japanese lessons

Pandabonium said...

Don - the reasons people choose to separate themselves is sometimes rather amusing to an outside viewer, like this story...

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump. I ran over and said: "Stop. Don't do it."

"Why shouldn't I?" he asked.

"Well, there's so much to live for!"

"Like what?"

"Are you religious?"

He said: "Yes."

I said: "Me too. Are you Christian or Buddhist?"


"Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?"


"Me too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"


"Wow. Me too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"

"Baptist Church of God."

"Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"

"Reformed Baptist Church of God."

"Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?"

He said: "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915."

I said: "Die, heretic scum," and pushed him off.

Pandabonium said...

Quasar9 - thank you. :)

ladybug said...

This trip sounds better and better each time I read an "installment"! I really like how you explain the little things, like the meanings of the island in the ponds, practical stuff like getting around and fun stuff like finding a hidden gem of a restaurant!

Found a hole in the wall restaurant in Fort Bragg, CA on one of our trips w/ my dad when my daughter was 3 or 4 years old. When to the Victorian town of Ferndale, took the Skunk Train up to the mountains and a bunch of other stuff I'd have to look at our photos to remember...

Pandabonium said...

Ladybug - Thanks.

Yours sounds like a great trip.

Food, even simple food, is something to be savored and appreciated. It's always great to find a place that takes care in preparing whatever kind of food they offer.

Skunk Train. I never rode that, but back in the early 70's I drove up the coast of California to Redwood City. We saw that train at Willits and drove out to Ft. Bragg as well, but didn't stop. Beautiful area. I still remember a delicious trout almondine dinner we had in Ukiah, just south of Willits.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Ah, beautiful Kamakura...the memories...

The last time I went there was not long after my wife and I got married. It was a fun trip except that we forgot to book a hotel in advance. It was also a holiday weekend, and the place was packed. My wife got on a public phone and went through the yellow pages. She was on that phone for quite a while and burned up at least one full phone card. By the time we finally found a place with an available room we'd gone all the way back to Yokohama.

I hope to go there again with a bit better advance planning.

Pandabonium said...

Moody - we really lucked out on the crowds, as it was not nearly as busy as we thought it might be, making it easier to get around and see what we wanted. I can't recommend a hotel - we were in a very good location, near the shrine, but although the room we had was adequate, it smelled like an ashtray (as so many do in Japan as you know). Hope you get to go again - it's a great place to visit.

Hill said...

I love these tours you give us!!

Beautiful pixs, btw.


Pandabonium said...

Hill- thanks. I hope to finish this trip in one more post, but maybe two. I'm falling behind!