Walking around in cultural and historical Kamakura, one of Japan’s once capitals, I spotted an interesting building that looked to fit in a little better than most of the new builds you see recently. The architect must have anticipated the interest as he had fitted an explanation sheet on the side of the building for interested viewers. This little act alone makes me believe there is quite a lot of love invested in this building, which one vital ingredient in sustainable architecture. Kamakura isn’t exactly starved of interesting buildings, a stone’s throw away from this little house near Hase Station I found a couple of handsome old fashioned black wooden buildings. I love how Japanese cities (at least the best ones) are so eminently walkable! To be a walkable city, it is not enough to focus on good sidewalks and street crossings, it is also important to make the buildings so interesting that you actually want to walk there, just to explore!
In the city of Kamakura, in Kanagawa Prefecture south of Tokyo I was exiting the Hase Station of the Enoden line when I noticed an odd looking post box almost hidden next to the station. It was one of several Haiku Post boxes, set up by the Haiku Appreciation group of Kamakura around the city of Kamakura, Haiku & Haiku (俳句＆ハイク, a play on words as Haiku means both the poem and the activity of hiking). Haiku are the most famous form of Japanese poetry, and always follow the same pattern of three lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables and should contain a keyword that shows or denotes one of the four seasons. I sometimes write haiku in Japanese while on the trains and subways of Tokyo. It is a good way to pass the time and exercise your brain and I think it is at least as effective as the sudoku number puzzles you see people with all the time.
The Haiku post boxes (there are about 20 of them and there are maps showing their locations but oddly enough not the one in these photos) are used to encourage people to submit their own haiku, either prepared ones or ones they write on the spot, as paper forms are available. I had no idea how popular something like this could be, but according to their homepage these very few haiku post boxes almost hidden away in a small town on the coat of Japan amassed an amazing 2621 poems during the summer of 2014 alone! You can read the best of them at their official site here.
There are rules for writing haiku in English and other languages as well, but I have never tried. Have you written one? Please share!
The last of August, a Sunday, I was in the city of Kamakura south of Tokyo and went down to the Pacific Ocean beach Yuigahama to enjoy the last of the August sun. It was just as beautiful as always. Although Kamakura is one of the biggest tourist attractions of Japan the beach and the area around it not very developed, and there are still some areas that have not changed a bit since after the War. Even on crowded days the beach is not that crowded really, and it is long enough that it is easy to just walk a little bit further and get a bit more space for yourself. In the summer there are life guards working some days, and special beach bars set up just for the season, serving food, drinks and even hosting club events.
Walking along the Yuigahama beach in Kamakura City on the edge of the Pacific Ocean I saw this couple having fun with some sparklers. It looked fun and romantic. Fireworks are very popular in Japan and an integral part of Japanese culture. Unfortunately there are very few places for people to enjoy them safely in the crowded cities of Japan. But the beach will always do nicely.