Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Presenting: The R2-D2 Hat

After making the R2-D2 mittens for one of this month's Nerd Wars 2 challenges, I decided to make a matching hat for my Nerd Wars 2 dissertation project & send them to Japan as well. So, I got the soy sauce dispenser out again, which I've been using as a model, & found some graph paper with smaller squares. I took the gauge from the mittens (5.5 stitches per inch with Knit Pick's Swish DK & size 5 needles) & decided to make the hat 104 stitches around. I charted half the hat, & decided to add some asymmetry by duplicate-stitch embroidering details, like the blue patch in the middle & the red patch at the bottom. Then I added crocheted accents as well.
The bottom is k2-p2 ribbing (on size 2 needles) for a turn-up cuff in the body colours of the little droid. And to explain the hat's model a bit better:
We used Brendan's C3P0 (dismembered) backpack, which needed a bit of support from Brendan :D
And here are the mittens, to complete the set. I learned a lot form making the mittens, so the hat went much more quickly. Charlie likes the hat best, which makes sense because I had more room to make it all really look like R2-D2. And that makes hat #10 finished & I'm over 75% done with the project! Now I'm working on a Pikachu baby hat- should be cute!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back to Making stuff... :D

And back to Real Life... sigh. I'm still napping occasionally, but mostly my body is back in the NW US. My taste buds are still in Japan, though, which means that I'm hungry a lot of the time, because I haven't been buying anything substantial for any meal but dinner (because I'm feeding Charlie & Brendan then, too). I want Japanese food :(  I made miso soup yesterday, which has helped a lot. And I cooked some somen noodles for dinner & served them cold (floating in a bowl of ice water with nasturtiums :) with cold broth & agedashi tofu (deep fried tofu in a cold broth for summer), plus a side of fresh veggies. It was sooooo yummy! Charlie doesn't like cold noodles very much, but he said I could make it once this week & he'd survive- such a mensch! :D

Along with getting my body back in this hemisphere, this past week, I was also catching up big time with my July Nerd Wars 2 challenges. I was only able to make & post one challenge from Japan:
My little Tanabata star tawashis for the mythology challenge. They're hanging in the kitchen now, but I doubt I'll ever use them to clean dishes because they are so cute! I did make some little tawashi things, from the same book as the stars, that fit over a toothbrush to clean my tea strainers, & they work really well.

While I was in Japan I did get to make a few things for my Nerd Wars 2 dissertation (hats for kids in the Touhouko region of Japan). The picture at the top is the Bear Hat (& mittens to match), made in honour of the character of the same name from the manga "Gakuen Alice". I also made this hat:
named for the character Shikamaru from Naruto, plus matching mittens. I made mittens to match the Card Captor Sakura Hat, too while we were away. Yay! My dissertation is over halfway done, with 9 out of the 14 hats made, & I'm making mittens to match them all, so I'm feeling good about how this project is proceeding. The deadline is August 31st, so it's all good :)

So, as I mentioned, in and around shopping, doing laundry, remembering how to drive a car, etc. I have been planning & making projects for the rest of the July Nerd Wars challenges. First up, for the "Alternate Yarnality" challenge (make something out of a non-traditional yarn) I decided to see if I could hand spin dryer lint to make yarn. It was a natural, since I was doing a lot of laundry...
I knew I would have to use a support spindle if I wanted to succeed because dryer lint has, basically, no staple length (the length of the fiber is called the staple length), so it wouldn't support the weight of a drop spindle & would need huge amounts of twist to stay together. I tried a couple different support spindles, as you can see in the photo, & also used lint from two different loads, just for fun.
 The spindle that worked the best was one I made from a size 000 (or something- don't remember how many aughts...) knitting needle & 2 rose quartz beads for a whorl. I worked for about half an hour, making a huge, dusty mess in my lap, & after repeatedly adjusting my technique, I got 3 yards of yarn.
Which I steamed in the microwave after gently washing (gentle was the order of the day with this stuff). After it was dry, I was able to crochet it (gently):
I made a flower with a leaf, which you really can't see, but it makes the flower look odd. Oh, well. I succeeded at spinning & crocheting dryer lint!!

The next project was the scientific method one, & this month you had to actually do an experiment & document the results, plus end up with a finished object of some sort. The question I decided to test was if there's a difference in yarn usage between lace & regular stockinette knitting. As I thought about testing this, I decided that I didn't just want to make swatches of the different knitted fabrics, so I decided to make the swatches part of one project. In Japan I bought a cute bottle sock (to absorb condensation from your water bottle) shaped like a bunny, which works very well, so I decided to knit a bottle sock incorporating test swatches into the design.
Here's the bunny & my knitted bottle socks. I also need to relate my NW2 projects to my team (comics & manga) so I named it after on of the lace patterns (cloverleaf lace) & a manga ("Honey & Clover"), & made a little clover motif at the end of the drawstring. I used Knit Picks Comfy fingering weight yarn & size 0 circular needles & knitted it in the round like a sock. As an experiment, it was interesting but my swatches (the 3 coloured bands in the bottle sock) weren't really a big enough sample to draw good conclusions. Although the moderately-lacy bottom band used more yarn than the stockinette one, the much more lacy top band used almost exactly the same amount of yarn, even though they were both knit to exactly 2" (unstretched). I got a cute bottle sock out of it & could use this design to make others for gifts, if I wanted to, so I am ultimately pleased with this experiment.

Next up, the Giving Geeks challenge, called Puppy Love, which asked us to make something to enrich the life of an animal. I had hoped to make catnip toys for my mom's cats, Angel & Patches, but the catnip (sometimes used for herb tea)  had disappeared- I have no idea where it went. Luckily, I saw a neat pattern made by other folks for this challenge, the Kitty Pi cat bed, so I decided to make one of them instead.
I used various colours of Brown Sheep bulky wool yarn & size 11 circular needles, with an edging of eyelash yarn, & then felted for the first time in my agitator-less washer- something that had me crossing my fingers big time. I wasn't sure it would work, but I put a big towel, a pair of old (clean) sneakers, & 2 tennis balls in the washer with the kitty pi & after 3 full cycles it finally felted. Whew!! I photographed it with plushies because I'm massively allergic to cats :(  My mom was really pleased with it & she's called me twice since I gave it to her, to tell me how much the cats like it :D Yay!

Pause for breath...

Next, I needed to make something for a bad guy in my team's fandom, to answer the Team Spirit challenge. I chose Sesshoumaru from Inuyasha because I've just loved his character for years. He starts out as one of the major antagonists in the series, & I find him fascinating as a character. So I knitted him an omamori- remember omamori? If you followed our adventures in Japan you saw photos of omamori we'd purchased at temples & shrines all over Japan. For Sesshoumaru, I decided to make one with kanji characters for things I wish for him on one side, & then the traditional characters for "omamori" on the other side.
Here's our model of the man himself, with my wish side. The kanji, from top to bottom, are "tomo" (together), "yashashi" (kindness), & "kokoro" (heart).
Here's the "omamori" side next to a real omamori. I tried to mimic the decorative effect of the brocade as well as the kanji characters on both sides. I made it with lace weight Knit Picks Gloss yarn in colours to match his sash, & size 00 circular needles, using the Fair Isle technique (& charting the kanji & decorative edgings on graph paper) to get the colours patterning. The gauge turned out to be ~13 stitches per inch. I slip-stitch crocheted the tie & found a tutorial for the decorative knot on YouTube.
I showed it to Momo when we skyped this week & she said you can read the kanji just fine- whew!!

For my final July NW2 project, I had to do 2 (actually 3) different things. For the Nerd Culture challenge I had to pick another team's fandom, make a project, & then relate it back to my own team. Plus, for this month's Team Unity project, we decided to make things to cover digits & toes. Whew! Choosing the other fandom to honour wasn't hard- I do the Star Wars thing here & at ravelry (with my ravhandle) so I decided to make R2-D2 mittens:
I charted the designs from our R2-D2 soy sauce dispenser (of all things...) & then made the mittens identical to each other- which means that when they're worn, you see different sides together. I also found (in a bin in the basement) my Star Wars Marvel comics, purchased in July of 1977 when I was 19 years old :D to use as my team tie-in. Can't believe I not only still have them, but that I could find them...

I plan to send the mittens to Japan with my dissertation hats. This afternoon I charted an R2-D2 hat to match, which will be the 10th hat for my dissertation! I guess it was good to have so many things to distract me from the jet-lag & re-orientation. And the August challenges are just around the corner. I can't wait!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Coming Home- A Day in St. Paul, MN

Entry to the St. Paul Hotel
What to do on a cloudy, muggy, warm day in St. Paul? If you're lucky enough to be staying at the St. Paul Hotel, you walk about 2 blocks to the Science Museum of Minnesota.

We were very fortunate to catch an exhibit of treasures from King Tut's tomb. It was big & very impressive & took us nearly an hour & a half to go through! On the way out, I bought a new duck:
It's for my duck collection :) I couldn't resist, & we've been singing "King Duck" (to the tune of Steve Martin's "King Tut") ever since...

The other really cool thing (among many) they had was the Seismophone, part of which you see above. It's a musical instrument that's connected to the internet site that senses earthquakes around the world & records them. The seisomophone plays folk tunes from the country that is nearest each recorder earthquake. During lunch, which we ate just below the rig pictured above, I was sure I heard something in the pentatonic mode... & when we checked the computer, sure enough, the most recent quake was off the coast of Japan.

We napped for a couple of hours in the afternoon, then had dinner at a Japanese restaurant about half a block away :) It's become a sort of tradition to eat Japanese while we're transitioning back to food here. Then we came back to our room & watched the PBS station for a couple of hours- they had a good special about comedy & comedians, I was able to finish the mittens for my 9th Nerd Wars 2 dissertation hat (yay!), & we went to bed after 10:00 pm!

This morning I woke up starving again, but at 7:30 rather than 2:30 (thank goodness). We all had the same breakfasts as yesterday because it was so yummy, then packed everything up, & are just about ready now, to catch our cab to the airport for the last leg home. The emails from home have been warning us it's hot & muggy there, too, but I'm feeling a certain immunity, after our very warm time in Japan :) I'm looking forward to becoming reacquainted with my very own bed tonight! Onward...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Coming Home from Japan: Culture Shock

This is the shirt Brendan wore for our departure from Japan :)  As departures & traveling go, it was a pretty easy day. We had done the bulk of the packing on Thursday evening, so all there was left to do was clean up, look around, & stuff a few last-minute things (mostly food to go) in bags, & then zip it all up. The front desk called us a cab around 10:15 in the morning & then next thing we knew we were heading through the heavy Tokyo traffic (Brendan & I counted 39 Priuses during the 30 minute trip!) to Ueno Keisei Station. We bought 11:40 am tickets there for the Keisei Skyliner to Narita Airport, & had only 15 minutes to wait before boarding. There were hardly any other people in our car, which underscored the lack of tourist travel to Japan these days.
The trip took just about an hour. Here's a look at the train from a curvy part of the line.

And here are my beloved blue tile roofs:
They just sparkle in the sun & feel so Japan to me.

We were sad to leave, but somehow, traveling has it's own momentum, so we went with the flow. It was a great relief to get rid of the luggage at the airport, especially after waiting nearly half an hour in a huuuuge line to check in. Then security, where laptops come out of bags but shoes stay on :)  And then waiting near the gate for about an hour & 1/2. We bought lunch at McDonalds (it's become a tradition when we leave Japan), but I don't think I'll find the excellent ebi fry (fried shrimp) sandwich I had for lunch at Narita at our local McDonalds, even if I was inclined to go...

We had decided to upgrade our seat to "economy comfort" ones after the very cramped airplane ride to Japan, but that meant that we weren't sitting together as we usually do. Brendan & I had the window & middle seats right behind Charlie, who was at a bulkhead in the middle seat. The person seated in our row at the aisle wasn't very much fun to be near- he jiggled his legs a lot, which shook mine, & he wouldn't stand up when we wanted to get up, but made us climb over him. Sigh. But, it was only 9 hours to St. Paul, Minnesota, our jet-lag stop, & after flying 13 hours to Japan, anything less is really close to heavenly. It was a very lively flight, with a lot of kids, & just about every time I looked up they were feeding us (& Brendan & I did get our veggie meals- yay!), so we didn't really rest much at all. Brendan read & I knitted (hat #9 for my Nerd Wars dissertation!) & played Bejewelled. The time passed.

Then we landed in Minneapolis/St. Paul, & then we were going through customs, got our bags, back through customs with the bags, & then we were looking for a taxi. Even at my brief stop in the rest room at the airport, culture shock kept making itself felt. I automatically looked for a stall that had a western toilet because in Japan they have traditional toilets (basically a porcelain ditch with a flusher) everywhere, sometimes they're the majority & there's only one western one... but here they were all western! Duh! Plus, there were paper towels in the bathroom, something I only found once in Japan. All of the escalators were running, which was another difference, since in Japan, in most places, at least one elevator or escalator is shut down to save electricity. And the airport was cool, rather than on energy-saving mode like most public places in Japan. Plus, there was such a diversity of body-shapes & colours of skin & clothing being worn- we were definitely not in Japan any more.

 Charlie does internet searches for neat places to stay & he found a doozy this time in the St. Paul Hotel. It's a grand, old place in downtown St. Paul. Just gorgeous! Brendan has an airbed in our room & it fits just fine, we're not squooshed at all, even with all the bags.
Here's Charlie reading the paper this morning in our 4-poster bed. I feel like I'm climbing into a treehouse when I get in bed :D Kind of the opposite of a futon on tatami floor, I guess.

We found an italian place to eat last evening, although our bodies thought it was the wee hours of the morning, we were a bit hungry. Then we showered & hit the beds about 8:00 pm Minnesota time. I was awake again by about 2:30 am, & Brendan followed me about half an hour later. We read quietly until about 5:00 am, when Charlie woke up. I was starving!! I snacked on green tea cookies I'd bought in Uji & waited until 7:00 for the hotel restaurant to open. We all had lovely big breakfasts, explaining to the waitress that our bodies thought it was dinner time :)  Now we're just waiting for the nearby Minnesota Science Center to open at 9:30 so we can walk around & get ourselves tired enough to sleep again. It's supposed to be really hot in St. Paul today, but after a week of Tokyo's heat & humidity, I think it'll feel kind of familiar. Tomorrow we fly back to Upstate, New York & our usual lives.

I can't help but feel that my usual life will never be the same, though, having spent these 3 weeks traveling half-way around the world. Living in a place, even for just 3 weeks, that is so acutely aware of electricity usage has got to have an effect on my thinking when I get home because it became such a habit in Japan. Brendan discovered a bunch of new foods that he'd never eaten before, such as zaru soba, so I know we'll be enjoying some of these together when we get home. If I carry a tenugui around with me all the time at home, like I did in Japan, then I won't need to use the paper towels in restrooms, even if they have them :) I think the thing I'll miss the most, though, will be the time we spent together as a family, doing & experiencing things together. That's a pretty precious thing, & probably one of my best memories of all of this trip. Tomorrow- home!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Japan 2011 Day 18 (July 14): Kappabashi Dori (aka: shopping!)

This is not a cafeteria...

Today is our last full day in Japan! I am sad already to leave :(  But today was my big shopping opportunity (taking into account that there’s not much room in my luggage, ok?) & I decided to enjoy every minute of it! 
Momo has wanted to show me the Kappabashi Dori district ever since we started planning out visit to Japan, since it’s the place where they sell kitchen & restaurant equipment, plus dishes, & all sorts of very cool stuff. So, the whole gang from Kamakura got together again at our apartment this morning, only this time, the guys (Charlie, Brendan & TJ) were going to Odaiba to visit the Miraikan science museum & the ladies (Momo, Hiroko, Miho & me) were going shopping at Kappabashi Dori. It was a win-win all around!
But first, the ladies went to the post office to send all the books (& one kimono) that I bought here to my home. It’ll take about a month for them to arrive, but when you consider the weight of 12 manga, 2 large manga anthologies, & 1 Newtype magazine (& one kimono) it was the only thing to do. Momo had brought me a box & everything fit just perfectly, & filling out the customs form wasn’t that much different than doing it in the US. And now it’s on it’s way to my house! Then we headed for the Akakbanebashi train station.
Kappabashi Dori (which means kappa {=Japanese mythical creature} bridge street) is near Asakusa, a large & famous temple in Tokyo, & it took us about half an hour & 3 trains to get there. We emerged from the train station into bright sunlight, heat, & a very busy street of shops. Almost immediately we were in one of them looking around. I didn’t want to get many things that were breakable, but I couldn’t resist some very cute ceramic hashi-oki (chopstick rests) in fun shapes, & 3 thin, elegant ceramic teacups. We decided to go to lunch next, & after some discussion, the consensus was to visit a family restaurant named “Royal Host” that was across the street. I have seen anime about “famu-res” but never visited one, so I was very psyched. We waited about 10 minutes for a table in the non-smoking section (Japan is still getting it’s act together when it comes to non-smoking anything, but it’s better than it was last trip) & looked at the menu while we waited. The omu-raisu (fried-rice covered by an omelette) unfortunately had meat in it (& I’m a fishetarian, can’t eat meat because I don’t digest it properly) but I found an interesting hollowed-out bun thingy that was filled with egg salad & a couple of shrimp on top that looked really good, plus a salad. It was as yummy as it looked, & I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture :( It was fun to sit & chat & enjoy the atmosphere there.
Next we headed for the fake food shops. Fake food is a big deal here- nearly every restaurant has a display outside of fake food representing the food they serve. The detail is pretty amazing & the variety is staggering.
Fake beer!

 It’s also pretty expensive, with one onigiri rice ball, for example, going for about $35.00. Luckily, all the stores have mini versions as magnets, keychains, & phone straps, at a greatly reduced price, so we all found special souvenirs among them at 2 different stores. 

At the second store they had a teacup with fake tea in it & I suddenly started craving tea. So, again by consensus, we walked around the corner & found a wonderful little anmitsu shop where we stopped for refreshment. Momo had grape juice. 
Real food...

 Hiroko had a beautiful anmitsu, & Miho & I had match green tea kakigori on a bed of sweet red beans. I had never had anmitsu before, although it’s pretty much everywhere in the summer in Japan. It’s basically shaved ice with a syrup topping, but the ice is shaved much differently than it is for snow cones in the US. 

When my kakigori (it literally means “shaved ice”) arrived I nearly fell over. It was huge! I named it “ocha-san” (“mount green tea”, kind of like Fuji-san means “Mount Fuji”) much to everyone’s amusement. 

Momo had fun getting pictures of me enjoying my first & quite heavenly kakigori. 
So, we had some more energy for more shopping afterward. I kept thinking that I could buy any more, but then someone would find a cool shop &, voila! There was the purse I’d been looking for for weeks! Made from kimono fabric!! :)  We finally ran out of steam around 3:30, & headed back to the train station to go back to our apartment. 
My shopping buddies, L-R: Miho, Momo, & Hiroko

Momo & Hiroko used a web site, accessed by their phones, to find a better way to get home (less walking) so we took a different set of trains this time. Charlie & the boys got home first & were relaxing, so we offered everyone mugi-cha (barley tea) from the fridge &  we enjoyed some wagashi sweets that Momo’s mom had given us- yum!  
Wagashi- traditional Japanese sweets with red or white bean paste inside- beautiful!

Then we took some group photos, & then we had to say good bye :(  That was really hard to do, & I cried a bit, but Charlie hugged me & I got my act together, & then we started the process of unpacking everything, & repacking everything so that it fits! Right now, a few hours later (& post-dinner), I am feeling optimistic that all of the luggage will close tomorrow morning. 
The plan is to catch a cab to Ueno Station at 10:15, catch the Keisei Skyliner (train) at 11:40 for Narita Airport, get us all checked-in & on our plane to Minnesota, which departs ~ 3:55 pm Tokyo time. We’ll spend 2 nights in Minneapolis de-jet-lagging (trying to deal with the temporal upset of regaining half a day), then catch a direct flight home on Sunday evening. Wish us luck everyone! We’ll see you when we’re on the other side of the world, again!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 2011 Day 17 (July 13): Ueno Park

Today we decided to make a leisurely visit to Ueno Park, which we visited on our last trip to Japan, in April of 2009. Ueno was the first parkland established by the Japanese government after the Meiji restoration in 1868, & it’s the site of the last stand of the Tokugawa Shogunate before the restoration. We had spent the first couple of nights that time in a bed & breakfast in Ueno, & had made a bleary trip to the park on one of our first days in Japan. It was where we first really saw cherry blossoms & so I was anticipating seeing it in another season. We had another beautiful weather day, which meant it got pretty hot, but there was a nice breeze in the park, & that helped.
To get there we had to re-trace our steps from yesterday’s trip, taking the Mita line one stop to Mita Station, then hiking for quite a ways underground until we came out near the JR Tamachi Station, where we caught the Yamanote line for Ueno (this was also the last day our JR passes could be used, so it was a good day to ride the Yamanote line :). From Tamachi it took about 20 minutes to get to Ueno. 
Our first stop was the Tokyo National Museum, which was highly recommended in our Lonely Planet Tokyo city guide book. The building is an interesting mix of western & Japanese elements on the outside, but inside looks a lot like any museum built in the early-to-mid twentieth century. We focused on the exhibits of clothing (Edo period- about 300 years ago- & Noh theatre costumes), samurai armour & swords, & beautiful painted screens. We then walked over to a more modern side-building to see the Houryuu-ji Treasures, a roomful of small, bronze buddhist statues from a temple in Nara, all around 1400 years old. Then we went in search of lunch.
Lunch was not easy to find in the part of the park we were in, so we ended-up going to the Natural Science Museum, which we’d visited on our first trip to Ueno, since we remembered the cafe there being pretty good, & we did find something everyone could eat there. Since we’d paid admission to the museum, we checked-out a few of the exhibits, such as the Parasol Garden on the roof of the newer, Global Gallery building. The parasols had infra-red sensors in them that sensed our approach & caused them to open. It was whimsical & fun, even though some of the parasols were broken & kind of beat-up looking. 
The place I really wanted to go to was the Kiyomizu-Kannon-do temple, because we’d visited it on our first trip, but I didn’t really know what omamori were then & hadn’t gotten one when we were there. After checking various maps, we first ended-up at the Toushou-guu temple, which is being renovated so you couldn’t really visit it. 

Then we found the Kannon-do. It’s made to look like it’s namesake, the Kiyomizudera in Kyoto, which is very famous, but it’s much smaller. I happily bought a few omamori there to commemorate both visits. 
Then we took all our trains back home & rested for a couple of hours before going back out to what’s become our favourite Chinese restaurant here in Tokyo for dinner. 
When we got back, I took this picture of Brendan because he’s wearing a t-shirt that has given us some giggles on this trip. In Japan, the roman alphabet is considered to be very cool, & all Japanese schoolchildren learn it along with learning both Japanese kana alphabets & kanji. Everywhere we look people have romaji (what the roman alphabet is called in Japanese) on their clothes, tote bags, you name it, & it often doesn’t make sense (sometimes this is called “Engrish”). Well, Brendan’s shirt is the opposite. It has a picture of Vader & a stormtrooper from Star Wars & has the words “daa-ku saido” printed in the katakana Japanese alphabet used for foreign loan words. It’s gotten some bemused looks from folks here :)
Tomorrow is, can you believe it, our last full day in Japan. Charlie spent some time today sorting out how we’ll get back to Narita Airport in time for our flight Friday. I’m being a bit of an ostrich because I don’t want to face leaving just yet. It’s not going to be easy, we’ve had such a lovely time & seen so  many treasured friends. Luckily, I get to see Momo again tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 2011 Day 16 (July 12): Kamakura

Today we took taxi, subway, & train, for a total of ~ 1 1/2 hours, & found ourselves (plus 4 friends) in Kamakura. Kamakura was one of the capitals of ancient Japan, founded in 1192 by the Minamoto shogunate, & it remained the capital for a little less than 150 years. There are 65 Buddhist temples & 19 Shinto shrines in Kamakura, but we only managed to visit 4 of them today :) That was enough, though, to see why it’s such a popular tourist destination. 
Our friend Momo, & her friend Hiroko, had planned a very elegant visit to Kamakura that began at the tiny Kita-Kamakura station, a much easier place to meet up than the large, bustling Kamakura train station one stop past Kita-Kamakura. Along with Momo & Hiroko, some friends from our town, Miho & her son TJ, who are visiting family in Japan right now, joined up with us. We all arrived around the same time at Kita-Kamakura & then found our first destination, the Engaku-ji Buddhist temple very close by.
L-R: TJ, Miho, Momo, Hiroko, Charlie, & Brendan

 The Engaku-ji, founded about 700 years ago, is famous for having a tooth of the Buddha enshrined there, although it isn’t on public display. 

The Engoku-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple & is still actively engaged in training practitioners of Zen Buddhism. 

The main hall was beautiful, & I loved the dragon painted on the ceiling. 
The bell at Engaku-ji is one of the cultural treasures of Japan, so I climbed up far too many stairs to see it.

 I’m glad I did, though, as it was beautiful. There were omamori for sale nearby so I bought some as gifts.
Hiroko-san had done an interent search of Kamakura & found a restaurant that served vegetarian food near the Engaku-ji, so we walked over there next. 

There were so many of us that the only table big enough was on the tatami, so we all sat on the floor on cushions to eat lunch. The food was yummy!!
Then we caught a bus to the main temple in Kamakura, the Shinto Hachimangu shrine. 

It was gorgeous, up on a hill again (with lots of stairs...). 

We could see the very old & beautiful omikoshi stored in a side-building- these are the movable shrines that the gods are moved into & then carried throughout the town during festivals. 
After the Hachimangu, we walked down to the a bus for a ~10-minute trip to see the Houkoku-ji Buddhist temple. 

The Houkoku-ji is in the middle of a beautiful bamboo forest, something I’ve always wanted to see. It was indescribable, green & peaceful & amazing. 

At the Houkoku-ji they serve matcha green tea & rakugan sweets for a small charge, which you drink by a tiny waterfall in the bamboo forest. So peaceful & lovely.
This Jizou was wearing a red crocheted cap :)
Next we got back on the bus to the Hachimangu area & then walked down the “street of shops” (& ice cream, shaved ice, & other consumables) toward the Kamakura train station, doing a little shopping along the way. While waiting to cross the road, at one point, an older gentleman struck up a conversation with us in English- it turns out that he’s been studying English since he retired & was delighted that we were English-speakers, so we chatted with him through a few light-changes :) At the station we caught our last bus to the Kotokuin Buddhist temple to see the Daibutsu, the most famous landmark in Kamakura. 
The Daibutsu (“great Buddha”) statue, made 750 years ago, was once in a building that was washed away in a tsunami & has sat uncovered since then. It was yet another beautiful place that was somehow peaceful even though there were lots of people (& lots of schoolchildren) there. You can actually go into the statue for a small fee, which a few of our group did (I didn't because I was tired of stairs!).
Entrance to the statue.
Air vents on the back of the Daibutsu.

Instead of taking a bus back to the station, we decided to ride the small, Enoden railway back to Kamakura station.

 It takes you by the ocean & is very nostalgic for Japanese who visited Kamakura on school trips or in their childhood. At Kamakura station we all got on the train back toward Tokyo, but, 2x2, our friends got off the train at earlier stops to go home. We got back to Tamaki station, where we’d started out (got there by taxi) & bought some food for dinner before finding a subway to take us home. It was nearly 5:00 pm by the time we got back, tired, a bit sunburnt, but definitely pleased with our wonderful day!