On a weekend in Australia, you head to the beach. So why not in Japan too? That was the plan for our day trip on Saturday. Although the weather was overcast, and eventually quite cold, we thought we’d explore what this area of Japan (about 50kms from Tokyo) had going for it, especially as Stephen and I had not visited the area before.
To get to Enoshima we first took a train to Ofuna, where an imposing 25 metre high white concrete Buddha looks over the city. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit it because it was time to catch the monorail. (Cue me singing ‘The Simpson’s’ song repeatedly.) This was no ordinary monorail though. It was suspended below the track and one of only two in the world. (A Mitsubishi SAFEGE if you want to get technical.) Honestly, this was more like a kids’ rollercoaster than a form of public transport. It barrelled up and down hills, scooted right past the windows of people’s houses and swung joyously around many, many corners. The 6.6km track cost 310 yen (about $3.50 Australian at the moment) and took about 14 minutes, which is the best value ride you’re ever likely to get.
On top of this, at the terminus at Enoshima station there is a life size model of the driver’s cab complete with working simulator screen for the kids to muck about on. A day’s worth of perfectly packaged children’s entertainment right there.
But this was only the beginning of our day. We walked down to the waterfront to see what we could see. A few surfers were walking along the boardwalk in complete dry suits including hoods, but other than that most people were heading for the aquarium or queuing for a restaurant called ‘Eggs and Things’. We headed back towards town to board the famous Enoden tram which follows the coastline towards Kamakura. Most of the journey afforded you views of the coastline and those brave surfers testing the chilly waters but at certain points it travelled through villages, not more than a foot from the walls of houses. The tram was busy but John made a friend by singing the theme song to ‘Dinosaur Train’ to the little girl opposite him, in increasing volume every time she squealed with delight.
The Kamakura area had a lot to occupy us. There was a large bronze Buddha statue in the grounds of Kotokuin temple that John missed as he was experiencing a zen moment of his own.
A few stops away on the train was the famous Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine including the seemlingly obligatory wall of sake barrels.
Saturdays seemed to be the day for weddings. In the half hour or so we were at the shrine, we witnessed the end of one, the beginning of another and another in preparation. Rather like a conveyor belt.
We came home via Tokyo station to visit ‘Character Street’, a section of mall inside the station selling popular characters’ merchandise including Hello Kitty and Snoopy. We were interested in visiting the Plarail/Tomy store to add to Thomas’s train set in Australia. Option overload! Luckily there was a large model set up at the front of the store which captivated the boys’ attention while Stephen and I were able to tag team and look around the store.
In the end we decided on a model of the newest Shinkansen (Hokuriku E7 series) which had only opened that day. On the news that morning, we had seen thousands of people waiting on platforms to watch the first train depart and later at Tokyo station we also saw one pull out so the purchase actually meant something to Thomas. Since setting it up on our return, him and John have barely left the rumpus room, so it clearly was a successful present.