When I got off the train in Kamakura last night, I could smell it there.
It took me most of the last week to actually go forward with my brilliant plan to head out of the city every time we have a three-day weekend. I think Kanto (the region where I live) may have crossed over the line where it is bloody hot less than it is reasonably pleasant. I'm basing this totally scientifically on the fact that I no longer spend most days hating life. It's possible that I'm biased, though, since this is the first week since I arrived that's been gone in a blink. Whatever the case may be, I was chillin' in the a.p.t. Thursday night and went, "Screw it - why not?!?" I found a guesthouse near the beach that gave me a bed for 3500 yen for the night, and booked it for the following night.
Japan Times there was dancing there on Friday night at six, so I grabbed McDonald's for dinner on my way into Tsurumi Station and caught the train down to Kamakura. The shrine wasn't far from the station, so I set out in the night, following the sound of drums up the street. I assumed they were part of the dancing, but when I arrived at the staging area, the dancers turned out to be geisha.
Eventually I wandered my way back to the station. In less than an hour the shopping district had become a ghost town, and it wasn't even 7:30. I had to take the local train line three stops, and then walked two blocks to get to my guesthouse. When I found it I'd been searching for a ryokan, and while the Ushio Guesthouse wasn't exactly that, it was a traditional Japanese house and it was cheap, so I decided it was close enough. It was charming...the tatami mats, a sitting area downstairs with a porch area letting the cool night air in...until I woke up at 2:30 in the morning itching like hell. With the exception of trips into Khuvsgul, I didn't think much over the last five years about using bug spray, and I'm regretting it now. Under the circumstances, it wasn't hard to manage an early roll-out to beat whatever tourists weren't scared off by talk of the typhoon.
The most famous thing to see in Kamakura is the Big Buddha, which I managed to hit on my way to one of the other sites I managed to dig up (this is me joking, btw - Kamakura has a LOT of things to see because history and stuff). The coolest thing about this Big Buddha (as opposed to some of the others I've visited) is that for a whopping 20 yen you can walk around inside him. In spite of the fact that he weighs...a lot (sorry - if you really care what he actually weighs, you can look it up)...he is actually hollow, and from the inside you can actually see where each part was soldered together. I even put up a hand and touched him, and then realized that I was basically standing in his crotch and decided to move on before I got struck by lightning.
Next on my list was Zeniarai Benzaiten Shrine. I'd put it into Google Maps at some point in the night while I was scratching mosquito bites, and the instructions went something like this:
"Continue along this street; turn neither to the left or the right until you come to the end of civilization, and then follow the overgrown trail through the woods, up a 60 degree incline. Try not to fall off the side of the hill screaming when you run into spiderwebs."
It was a long hike, but I learned a new purpose for my fan along the way. When I came to the top of the hill the breeze was refreshing...along a paved road. I found out when I got there that people live on the top of that hill (or they did at some point - most of the houses seemed kind of deserted), and nobody is making that hike every day in the 21st century. Apparently Google reads my blog, since they chose the adventurous route for me. Or else possibly I chose the shortest. You know, one or the other.
At the top I could also see the sea. It looked a lot less scary by day at the top of a hill than it did when I walked to the shore at 8 the night before. Maybe it's just me, but in the dark the waves washing in looked a little menacing, and although I knew logically that there were no giant squid lurking on the shoreline, waiting to drag me out to sea, I couldn't quite bring myself to dip my toes into the water. Although it sure was beautiful and I sat and watched it for a while from the wall next to the sidewalk.