Japan, Day Three

Kamakura is probably the most popular day trip destination outside of Tokyo. An hour-long train ride away, it’s a beach town with relaxed vibes and it’s easy to walk from Kamakura’s central train station to most of the city’s sights. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Japan is second to none when it comes to train travel. After a bento breakfast of fried stuffed tofu and glazed sardines, we were on our way.

Fried stuffed tofu

Glazed sardines

Shirasu, or boiled baby sardines, are a Kamakura specialty. After arriving in Kamakura, we stopped at Shamoji to try their shirasu and tuna bowl set.

Shirasu and tuna bowl set

The shirasu were so clean tasting with a light, smooth texture. Topped with a drizzle of ginger and soy, they were perfect alongside the fresh tuna, miso soup, pickles, and housemade tofu okara. We sat at the bar, slupring our shirasu while chatting with the charismatic and friendly chef, who shared with us that he’d road tripped through California in the 1970s. Our meal at Shamoji was one of our favorites in Japan, and we happily continued on our way to our next stop: Kotoku-in.

Kotoku-in

Kotoku-in, or the Great Buddha of Kamakura, is one of Japan’s most recognizable icons and it’s so large that you can even go inside the cavernous base. Kotoku-in was built the eleventh century and he’s seen a lot. At one time, the Great Buddha was gilded. There are still traces of gold leaf near the statue’s ears.

A sign near the entrance reads “Stranger, whosoever thou art and whatsoever be thy creed, when thou enterest this sanctuary remember thou treadest upon ground hallowed by the worship of ages. This is the Temple of Bhudda (sic) and the gate of the eternal, and should therefore be entered with reverence.

Kotoku-in

Afterwards we explored more of Kamakura’s idyllic streets, stopping to sample tako sembei, or freshly cooked octopus crackers.

Tako sembei

Next we made our way to Hase-dera, a Buddhist temple with gorgeous gardens and an impressive view of the coastline.

Hase-dera

Hase-dera

Hase-dera

Behold the Japanese iteration of my blog’s namesake. Not-too-sweet yogurt beverage flecked with bits of pleasantly chewy coconut gel? Yes, please!

We made our way back to Tokyo as dusk was setting in and stopped at Shibuya Crossing to visit one of my favorite places: the Hachiko statue! Hachiko is basically the greatest dog of all time and I love Tokyo for dedicating a statue to this loyal furry dude.

Hachiko!

Shinjuku nightlife

Nishan and I spent the rest of the evening in Shinjuku and exploring the nightlife before stopping for dinner at 35 Steps Bistro. Tucked 35 steps below ground level in a converted parking garage, I wasn’t sure about this place at first. I’m glad I listened to Nishan though, because it ended up being outstanding.

Flame seared mackerel

Flame seared mackerel

We started with a house salad and tuna tartare, and next came the flame seared mackerel. This mackerel was melt-in-your-mouth tender and charred just right. And the freshness? No contest.

Mentaiko udon

My favorite dish, though, was the mentaiko udon. I might go so far as to say this is among the top ten things I’ve ever tasted, period. Wonderfully chewy udon clinging to a salty-seafoody mentaiko butter sauce, topped with chopped kimchi and nori. You’d think the flavors might clash, but no. It was as if all of my favorite flavors joined forces in perfect, inimitable harmony.

It’s hard to say anything could top that udon. It’s been ten months and I still think about it.

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