Even though we have been in Japan for almost two weeks, we actually haven’t seen too much outside of the base. We have been pretty busy getting ourselves set up with a house, car, new phones, and all the other things that go along with a big move. However, we have gone out into town on a few occasions to check things out and try out the many great restaurants (more on food in another post!). Yokosuka is a Navy town, the United States has a large base here and so does Japan.
Yokosuka is a city of about 400,000 and a little over an hour away (by train) from Tokyo. Like I said, we really haven’t explored it too much yet except for the area right around the base, but we will in the next few weeks.
This might make me sound like a total idiot, but I never realized how much of Japan was mountainous. About 70% of the land is mountainous terrain, and much of it is so rugged that it is not suitable for agriculture or dwellings. The base itself is very rocky and rugged too, with lots of tunnels and caves everywhere. In fact, during World War II, over 250 caves and 20 extensive tunnel networks were built in the immediate area to protect the Imperial Japanese Navy from bombings. You can still see a lot of these around the base today.
Besides just being very busy, we also were prohibited from leaving the base area until we had completed a required introductory course on living here. The five day long course went over numerous things such as base procedures (don’t do anything dumb), emergency procedures (don’t panic), getting around using public transportation (don’t get lost), proper manners (don’t be rude), driving (don’t get in an accident), and repeatedly reinforced that if you mess up terribly you will go to a Japanese prison and have to eat fermented fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next 20 years. Seriously, we watched a video on it and it was kind of terrifying.
Despite learning about all the ways we could end up in a Japanese prison, we got brave and decided to start venturing out and learning about the area. We started by going to a beautiful neighboring city (about a 20 minute train ride away) called Kamakura.
Kamakura is a city known for having a lot of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, and is a popular spot for tourists to visit. When we visited there were a lot of people who came in their yukatas (summer kimonos) and were walking around enjoying the sites.
After enjoying a tasty lunch we visited Kamakura’s most important shrine, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. This shrine was founded in 1063 and has a commanding view of the city below.
After walking around this shrine for a while we decided to go check out another one of Kamakura’s famous sites, the Great Buddha.
We took a little break here and enjoyed some green tea soft serve ice cream while sitting in the shade of the Buddha, pretty cool! The temperature was in the mid 80s and the humidity was 94% this day, so that was actually my third ice cream cone… don’t judge.
After seeing the Great Buddha we stopped at a Buddhist temple called Hasedera. This time of year it is famous for it’s large hydrangea garden. No one is totally sure when the temple was first established, some say in the 8th century, but there are official records of it dating back to the 12th century.
Now that we have had our first glimpse of Japan we are eager to get out and start exploring more! What a beautiful country!