Excitement is high as we approach Tokyo Station for our overnight trip to the seaside town of Kamakura.
We had read that it is just an hour away from Tokyo by local train and costs just $12.
We head straight to the ekiben to select our bento boxes for the journey. We need little excuse to scoff one of these amazing little meals even though it is 10am and we have lunch planned in Kamakura.
At the platform, there is one train due before ours. On arrival, we are kind of surprised that it is the same type of train as the metro. A row of seats either side of the carriage with plenty of room for standing passengers.
It dawns on us then that Kamakura is a commuter town and part of the Greater Tokyo mass transport network. There are no comfy seats and nice toilets and we certainly won’t be eating our bento boxes.
For the first two stops we stand alongside other commuters. They are replaced by hordes of chattering day-trippers, elderly ladies enjoying each other’s company.
The train ride is through the endless sprawl of Tokyo suburbs, Yokohama and finally the hills of Kamakura.
The town was the political centre of Japan from 1185 until 1333. Today, Kamakura is a very popular tourist destination. Sometimes called the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, it offers numerous temples, shrines and is known for the 13 metre tall Daibutsu buddha.
Kamakura’s surfbeaches attract large crowds during the summer months.
We arrive to rain but forge on to a quaint covered farmers’ market where old women display their tomatoes, eggplants and greens. They ignore us as we admire their produce, more interested in catching up on their gossip than us. We buy a bag of cherry tomatoes and eat them like sweets as we wander about.
A tad bedraggled we head to lunch. The restaurant specialises in local produce and here in Kamakura that means vegetables and shirasu, sardine whitebait. We greedily choose a set menu with appetiser of cheese tofu, vegetable tempura, a raw and cooked shirasu rice bowl with an onsen egg, pickles, miso soup and yuzu sorbet.
The tempura is a meal on its own. The colourful plate includes a green bean, green and yellow zucchini, purple turnip, beetroot, mushrooms, eggplant, pumpkin and green pepper.
The rice bowl is generous too. The shirasu is smaller than our whitebait but equally as tasty mixed with the onsen egg, a little ginger and soy sauce.
Later we stroll through the local shops counting the many seasonal gifts featuring hydrangeas which are currently in full bloom.
Omiyage is the tradition of bringing a gift back from your travels which reflects the season and specialities of the town. Later on our return journey the day-trippers are all clutching purple bags filled with treats.
Our hotel for the night is the Kamakura Prince Hotel, slightly out of town but right by the sea. The rooms are large with ceiling to floor windows. Our rooms looked toward Enoshima Island and behind is Mt Fuji.
Fuji-san’s appearance was cancelled due to rain. I have never actually seen the mountain despite travelling nearby countless times. I’m beginning to think it’s about as real as Godzilla.
The next morning is bright and sunny and we pop down the road to Bills for breakfast. Yes, the Australian café is here in Kamakura serving ricotta hotcakes and avocado on toast alongside good strong coffee. The only quibble is the price of the coffee. We each throw back two short black espressos at $8 a pop.
We take the Enoshima electric train back to town for a spot of sightseeing. I visit the Daibutsu Buddha while Sue hires an electric bike to cover more ground.
Not long after we separate I discover a cart selling jacoyaki – like the octopus filled takoyaki balls but with the local whitebait instead. I give in to temptation and have a second breakfast. Totally worth it.
We re-unite for lunch at a well-known soba restaurant. It’s about 30 degrees out and the simple soba noodles in a cold yuzu broth are cooling and refreshing, as is the beer.
We only got to skim the surface of what Kamakura has on offer and have vowed to return soon. We believe there are other culinary treasures waiting to be uncovered and I’m prepared to give Mt Fuji another chance too.