My trip to Japan, in the year 2014, was rather unplanned. Just to explain the situation, I got married to Biplob in February 2014 in Kolkata, India. After a few days of the wedding, my husband went back to Japan; he was a post doctoral fellow there. In April 2014, I decided to visit him for few days. So, I applied for visa and got it within a week. Both of us were so happy.. it was the first time we were going to meet somewhere outside India! I took leave from my work and headed towards Japan. Biplob was living in Kashiwa Lodge in Kashiwanoha which is located in the Chiba prefecture of Japan. Kashiwanoha is around 50 kms away from Tokyo, the capital of Japan. My plan was to stay there with him for 10 days and to explore several places in and around Tokyo.
I arrived in Narita international airport in Tokyo on 25th April in late afternoon. Biplob was there to receive me. We boarded a train and headed towards Kashiwanoha. Biplob told me that on clear days one can see Mt. Fuji from train. I was excited to know that. When I was in school, I read about Mt. Fuji in geography books. The thought of seeing the mountain made me happy and amazed. I kept my eyes outside the window but could not see a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. When we arrived in Kashiwanoha, it was already evening and we decided to have an early dinner. I had to recover from the jet lag; a good amount of sleep was needed for that. So we had our dinner in a subway outlet in the Lalaport shopping mall and then we went straight to the Kashiwa lodge. Near the reception counter of the lodge I saw a nice decoration with a Japanese doll and some other colorful stuff. It was really nice, and I did not forget to capture it in my camera.
Next day, 26th April, was a bright sunny day and I was all set to explore Tokyo and Biplob was my guide, because he was already staying in Japan for more than a couple of years and had already visited several tourist places there. First, we visited Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, but we had a tough time to find it. We asked some local people to get an idea, and every time we were surprised to see the replies we got. They were very very helpful, and they did their best to give us the direction, overcoming the language barrier, which is not an easy thing to do. Their efforts amused us in some cases, but finally we could find the entrance of the park. It was a beautiful and large park with eminent garden. The garden blends three distinct styles, a French formal garden and English landscape garden in the north and a Japanese traditional garden in the south.
From Shinjuku Gyoen we went to Zozoji Temple, a Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Just beside the temple, we saw something which I never saw before in my life. It was a garden with rows of stone statues of children decorated with colorful clothes. Later we figured out that the garden was for unborn children ! The stone statues of children represent the unborn children of Japan, including miscarried, aborted and stillborn children. The unfortunate parents can choose a statue in the garden and decorate it with small clothing and toys, in the memory of their unborn baby. The concept was so beautiful !
From the garden, we could already see the glimpses of Tokyo tower, whose structure is very similar to Eiffel tower in Paris. We headed towards the enormous iconic tower and reached there before sunset. There are two observation decks in Tokyo tower and we visited both. The main observatory is located at a height of 150 meters, while the special observatory was at a height of 250 meters. Both observation decks offer amazing view of Tokyo city. We knew that Mt. Fuji is generally visible from Tokyo tower if the weather is suitable. But no ! You need luck to see Mt Fuji…
After enjoying the view, we spent some time in a souvenir shop in the ground floor of Tokyo tower. It was already late evening by then and we called it a day.
Next day, 27th April, we decided to visit a small town named Kamakura, which is also known as Kyoto of Eastern Japan. We reached there by train and the first spot we visited was a buddhist temple called Engaku-ji Temple. It was a calm and serenely beautiful place. I liked the huge statue of Hokan Shaka Nyorai (crowned Sakyamuni) which is the main object of worship in the temple.
After that we visited Kencho-ji temple, which consists of a large number of temple buildings. In both the temples (Engaku-ji and Kencho-ji), we noticed that the main gate of the temple is really huge! Later we came to know that this kind of traditional entrance is known as Sanmon. Also, both the temples had large temple bells, considered as national treasure. From a shop located near Kencho-ji temple, I bought the most significant souvenir of Japan, a Daruma Doll.
Our next destination was Kamakura’s most important shrine called Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine. In front of the staircase of the shrine there is an open pavilion, called Maiden, where weddings, dances and music are performed. We saw a newly married couple there who were beautifully dressed in tradition Japanese wedding costume.
Then we had some refreshment in a coffee-shop and proceed towards Hasedera Temple, one of the great Buddhist temples in Kamakura. It is located on a hill and offers a magnificent view of the nearby bay. The grounds of the temple are home to hundreds of small statues, placed by parents mourning offspring lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion. It was very similar to what we saw in the grounds of Zozoji temple. Seeing this, we understood that it is a common practice in Japan. These statues are known as Jizo statue.
After that, we visited the Great Buddha of Kamakura, also known as Daibutsu. It is a bronze statue which is approximately 13.5 meters tall including the base. The statue was most probably made in the year 1252 and it was originally located inside a large temple hall. However, the temple building was destroyed by typhoon and a tidal wave. Since around 1495, the statue of Buddha is standing in the open air.
We were quite tired by that time and took some rest there while making next plans. Finally we decided to go to Enoshima from where we can enjoy nice view of sunset. So we boarded a train and headed towards Enoshima. Heavy wind was blowing when we got down from the train. Somehow we managed to walk towards the bay. And suddenly, wow! woww!! We saw Mt. Fuji ! It was a wow moment in true sense. It was a lifetime experience for me to see the exceptionally symmetrical cone of Mt. Fuji, which is the highest mountain in Japan. The last rays of the setting sun, the silhouette of one of the most famous mountains in the world, the heavy wind, the beautiful bay… everything was so perfect. I will always cherish the memory of the time spent in Enoshima. We clicked a lot of pictures there, and finally after the sunset we were on our way back to Kashiwa lodge.
The next day (28th April) was spent in a rather leisurely way. Biplob took me to his institute, which was just a kilometer away from the lodge, and introduced me to his colleagues. The campus of the institute was nice. We had lunch with pasta and coffee in one of the canteens of the institute. The lady who served the lunch liked my Indian dress very much and expressed her feelings through gestures, as we did not know each others languages. On our way back to the lodge we visited the Kashiwanoha park.
It seemed to me that the first four days passed too quickly. Only six more days were left. Ten days seemed too little time. Good time pass by too quickly. But memories remain, forever.
But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day