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!
There is a saying that in Tokyo you can eat out every meal for your entire life and never have to eat at the same restaurant twice. While this is certainly true, I feel that a variation on this saying could be: In the Tokyo region you could travel to a new station everyday of your life. This though, is certainly an exaggeration even it feels like it sometimes! Despite having spent years and years in and around Tokyo I still travel to stations every now and then that are completely new to me. The Mizonokuchi Station in northern Kawasaki City of neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture is one of those major stations that I had just never had a reason to visit. It is used by on average over 140 000 people per day, much more than the population of most cities in Europe. Mizonokuchi Station (溝の口駅) was inaugurated in 1927 and serves Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line and Tokyu Oimachi Line. It is also popular as it is just a stone’s throw from the JR Musashi-Mizonokuchi Station (武蔵溝ノ口駅). You can see that JR has kept the old “spelling” of the station name.
I still haven’t had time to explore the station or the area around it, but maybe some day! Until then, I’ll file this under “places to check out”. If you have any personal stories or information about the station or the area around it please let me know!
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!
I love harbors and I love big ships and if there is one place to really see them up close it is at the International Port of Yokohama, the Osanbashi Pier. Last year I saw the gigantic MS Asuka II (飛鳥II) at port. It is the largest passenger vessel in Japan right now, at 241m. It has a crew of 545 and can take 960 passengers. I usually use this site to track the position of large ships but I already knew that the Asuka II is currently in port at Hakata/Fukuoka on the north coast of the island of Kyushu, in southern Japan, where it arrived about half a day ago.
The ship was launched in 1989 and is currently sailing under Japanese flag (which is unusual in this day and age of “Flag of Convenience” maritime traffic.