On the doorstep of Tokyo

We ventured out of Tokyo to see Fuji, Yokohama, Kamakura and Nikko.

The official season to climb Fuji is from the beginning of July until the end of August or mid-September. We just squeezed in and somehow managed to reach the top in order to see the sunrise. This is what the climb looked like.

Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city and holds an important port. But to us, it felt like another Tokyo neighbourhood, which I’m sure would insult some locals. We took a suburban train for 20 minutes in order to get to Yokohama and spent a day walking around in the waterfront area, which is full of high, glass-and-steel buildings, some pretty parks, a fun fair and some ships, and the more chaotic, but still quite organized – we’re in Japan – Chinatown.

An old capital, Kamakura is full of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. The town has about 170,000 inhabitants and feels small when you come from Tokyo, but the train trip from the capital only takes an hour. We found a big beach, empty except for some wind surfers. The swimming season had just ended and people were packing up the summer-only beach bars. But the most famous sight in Kamakura relates to religion: The 11.4 m bronze Buddha statue standing out in the open after a tsunami flushed its temple away more than 500 years ago.

Nikko is quite a small town in the mountains, a couple of hours north of Tokyo. It’s another shrine and temple place, starring the World Heritage-listed Tosho-gu. It was grey and drizzling when we went there, but that made wandering through the mist in an old forest past ancient shrine structures quite magical. That’s something we both love about Japan. All those religious sites in thick, old forests – it’s a beautiful combination. We also stayed at a great hostel where we got to make decorated sushi plates together with the funny, young host and a silent Thai family whose cranky grandmother fed us Thai spices just to watch us cry. Luckily we like spicy food – hah!

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