My therapist said this wouldn't help.


Today we took it easy in the morning, with cornflakes provided and then french toast later offered as brunch. Miho's mother has been constantly attentive, making sure we are fed and watered, suggesting things we should visit while here, and more. We headed out to see a few sights and discovered that the weather had heated up and got humid again, though it was hardly as unpleasant as our time in Italy.

First stop was the Giant Buddha, a large bronze statue that was built seven hundred and sixty years ago and is housed in a shrine. It was impressive on age alone, and had the unique feature of being hollow, so you could go inside and see the construction. It was not particularly English-friendly, and the surrounding gardens were sparse, so despite the impressiveness of the structure we didn't linger much longer.

After that, we walked a little way down the road to Hase Kannon. This temple had many appeals. There was an elegant garden at the base of the hillside with delicate flower beds and ponds. Further up the hill, structures housed impressive buddha statues and a rotating library. Outside there was a traditional gong, and a collection of stone figures. I browsed a museum of ancient artefacts uncovered on the site, which had been a sacred temple for hundreds of years and thus hid many treasures lost to time. There was even a cave system with stone figures cut into the walls (and that I had to bend over double to navigate). The view from the top of a steep walking route, Prosperity Path, offered a beautiful view of Kamakura's harbour. It was idyllic.

I walked home for lunch - the promised french toast - and then we waited for the weather to ease a little. Our washing in the machine, we headed out to the town's heart. We paused for crepes, which are very common here, and I enjoyed a lovely cointreau and sugar, while Miho and Sam had chocolate and banana. The weather had cooled slightly, taking the edge off, and making our afternoon stroll through the shopping strip very comfortable.

We perused all the little gift stores, Ghibli shop, and even found an international supermarket selling Tim Tams and many other surprising imports. A rice snack shop had a very hot cracker that I had to try, and they weren't lying. I inhaled the chilli dust and coughed and spluttered for the next fifteen minutes, in a good way. We ended up at Tsurugoaka Hachiman-gu Shrine, which has stood for a thousand years and around which Kamakura grew.

At the top, we paid a few hundred yen for a fortune. You shake a box and then upend it, allowing one wooden stick of the fifty inside to fall out through a small hole. These are all individually numbered and the attendant then gets the appropriate fortune for you on a piece of paper (they had English copies too). Miho read hers out and was pleased by the good luck it promised, and Sam's turned out to be the exact same one. Mine was 'dai-kichi' and was for excellent luck - apparently quite rare and special. I was glad for her that we all have bright futures, and none of us drew a curse.

We bought a cake as a little way to say thank you to the family for putting us up for two nights, knowing that Miho's father was going to be home that night to cook us sukiyaki, a kind of Japanese hotpot. We shared a lovely dinner, with great food and company. They fry up wagyu beef, vegetables, mushrooms and konjac, a kind of plant cut into noodles on a gas plate in the middle of the table. It's traditionally served with raw egg, which I tried but must admit did not take a huge fancy too. Without it, though: delicious.

As Miho's mother started preparing some snacks for dessert, we quickly jumped up and brought out the cake and said a few short words of thanks. Miho then produced Sam's twenty-first present: a Pokemon rug for his bed and large Pokemon puzzle piece tiles for his bedroom floor. He just about had a brain aneurism from excitement. There were two more gifts for us staying here - a Pokemon cup for Sam and a Mario one for me. An entirely unnecessary gesture when we should have been the ones giving more, but a lovely one too and typical of Miho and her family. I then presented her with the clown fish beanie I'd bought her, which she loved.

Tomorrow, we make our final trek to our last destination overseas: Tokyo. Our two nights here in Kamakura have flown by, and I wish I'd had the foresight to allocate more time here. It has been great to see Miho, and even though we'll see her closer to Christmas, and she'll see Alana in a week when she visits here, it would have been nice to have more time. Tokyo, which we only briefly visited en route from Canada and to Kyoto, represents a lot of final opportunities. Last chance to shop, last chance to see, last chance to enjoy.

Nick SchaedelKamakuraComment