Monday, February 27, 2017

Some chimps in swimsuits, some chimps are swinging from a vine

When we first found out about our move to Yokosuka, we started researching as much as we could. One of the first places we read about was Sarushima or Monkey Island. We were a little disappointed that Monkey Island does not actually have any monkeys, but an island named after a mystical monkey that appeared to a lost ship and the only natural island in all of Tokyo Bay is pretty cool too. It's also the historical site for defense of the Japanese mainland and there are several remnants of the base throughout.

So one Saturday in January, we finally got tickets for the ferry and visited it ourselves! We ultimately decided that it will be nicer to visit when the weather is warmer, but it's very pleasant and offers beautiful views of our base and the surrounding area.

There are monkeys here after all!

Blake for scale!

Gun battery


 See you in the summer, Sarushima!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The pilgrimage has gained momentum

Having my kinen-shikishi or stamping sheet signed

Another New Year's tradition of particular interest to me was the shichifukujin pilgrimage, or Seven Lucky Gods tour. Shichi means 7, fuku means lucky, and jin means god. You can read more about it from the link above, but basically visiting the sites of these particular gods will bring happiness, luck, and fortune for the pilgrim and it is particularly popular to do at the beginning of the year. And it's a really interesting way to see several temples and shrines in a short time!

We did the Kamakura shichifukujin, as outlined by this site. It took us three different days, but since you don't have to finish it in a particular order or time frame, that's completely acceptable. I couldn't take photos of every statue, so the photos I'll share are either of the ones I could or of things of interest I found along the way.

Our first day was near the Hase station in Kamakura, where we found the sites for Daikokuten (god of agriculture, wealth, farming, and commerce) and Fukurokuju (god of wealth, happiness, and longevity).
Jizo are thought to be the guardians of travelers and the weak and have special purpose as guardians of infants lost to miscarriage or death

Jizo garden

Jizo garden




Our second outing involved circling the streets surrounding the Komachi-dori, or most popular shopping street in Kamakura. Here, we found the sites for Ebisu (god of the ocean, fishing folk, sailors, commerce, and fair dealing), Bishamonten (god of treasure, scourge of evil doers, defender of the Buddhist faith, and patron of warriors), Benzaiten (goddess of music, fine arts, beauty, eloquence, and literature), Hotei (god of contentment, happiness, bartenders, and all classes of people), and Jurojin (god of wisdom and longevity).

Found one of ours!

The official Benzaiten shrine for the pilgrimage

Our final trip took us all the way back out to Enoshima, where we had spent Christmas Eve. It's a popular site for the goddess Benzaiten, and even though we had already visited on place dedicated to her, this gave us our eighth and final stamp! It was also decidedly less crowded this time!
Benzaiten shrine in Enoshima

We celebrated with Hawaiian burgers, which were delicious. With these efforts, 2017 should be a great year for us!

Friday, February 24, 2017

So this is the new year

The New Year in Japan is a very important holiday. The house is cleaned top to bottom and temples and shrines are visited to pray for new year's blessings (the first such visit of the year is called hatsumoude). While Japan doesn't follow the Chinese calendar, it does observe the Chinese Zodiac and this year is the year of the rooster.
Bought this at a shrine in Kamakura. There are several charms you can purchase at the new year.

It's also one of two times are year that the inner gardens of the Imperial Palace are opened to the public and the imperial family greets those who want to wish them well for the new year. This year's visit was on January 2nd.
Making our way to the gardens

Beautiful, but so many people on that other bridge! We'd cross that a few minutes later.

That flag is on our fridge now.

The crowd roared as the imperial family came out

Emperor Akihito and his family

And now we work our way out

They cycle through this many people several times throughout the day! We look forward to more leisurely strolls in the future to actually observe the grounds.

We also used this holiday to introduce Blake to Kawaii Monster Cafe, this time lunching in the Mushroom Disco room.
Even the restroom is amazing!

So colorful!

Rainbow pasta!

Monster burger!

A few days later, we observed our own hatsumoude by visiting the Daibutsu or Great Buddha of Kamakura. It was built in 1252 inside of a large temple, but after a series of natural disasters has been in the open air since 1495.

Inside the Great Buddha

Happy New Year everyone!