A Big Buddha Belly Fulla Ramen

Once again, we wanted to get an early start towards Kamakura to see the Daibutsu (Big Buddha. dai=big, butsu=Buddha). After about an hour of riding on the subway we arrived in Kamakura. We didn't really know our way around so we just followed signs that said "Daibutsu Hiking Trail." I didn't think that it would really be a hike since the Japanese don't seem to actually like hiking. Well, I was wrong.

Throwing plates at rocks.

Throwing plates at rocks.

After walking on a forest trail, I heard voices and children laughing which I was certain meant we were to the Buddha. Wrong, again. It was just the halfway point, where you might be able to see Mt. Fuji if the clouds weren't in the way. There was a love shrine, areas for picnicking, and a "sacred" stone I could throw a plate at to cast away my troubles. I didn't throw very well. I attested that to the fact that I wasn't really troubled by anything. I mean, how could I be? I'm in freaking Japan! Haha

Anyways, after a momentary break, we followed the path that said it would take us to the Daibutsu. It was as long as the first half of the hike. I joked that this pilgrimage better be worth it and I better be able to touch the Buddha himself. Ian told me that was highly unlikely.

Click  here  to see me knocking on Buddha. Also, are they trying to encourage underage drinking with cute animals??

Click here to see me knocking on Buddha. Also, are they trying to encourage underage drinking with cute animals??

When we finally reached the temple, we found out we could have actually taken a path that wasn't the hike. It was the nice easy street walk that has lots of cute shops. But alas! We took the hard way. I consoled myself with the idea that this was probably the more honorable way and I felt no shame when I finally went and touched the Buddha. Yup, Ian was wrong about not getting to touch Buddha. Not only did I touch the statue, but I got to go inside too. I found out that if you knocked on it hard, the whole statue reverberated to my delight.

Yokohama station.

Yokohama station.

This is basically the most magic person on earth. Possibly related to Santa Claus. Maybe Gandalf.

This is basically the most magic person on earth. Possibly related to Santa Claus. Maybe Gandalf.

As Operation: Daibutsu was a success, we treated ourselves to a hard apple cider made in town, had a street shop snack of croquettes, and then made our way back to the station, so we could go to Yokohama. Upon arrival to Yokohama station, I saw the most magical human! There was a bunch of Gashapon machines in the middle of the station and this man was going and changing out the selection of items! And better yet, there was even a coin machine to exchange my dollars for ¥100 coins. 😱 After my excitement subsided, we realized we were actually not in the right part of town to see the Ramen Museum. That was actually in Shin-Yokohama (shin means "new", so New Yokohama). The station had some really nice art and sculptures, as is the way of most Japanese stations.

Here's a  video  of that big ramen bowl at the entrance.

Here's a video of that big ramen bowl at the entrance.

We hopped over to Shin-Yokohama, and the museum wasn't far from the station there. I requested the 3-month membership with the intention of returning to try all the shops. The clerk had to grab someone, who I think may have been one of the curators of the museum due to his excitement. He seemed pleased that not only was I requesting a membership, but that ramen is my favorite food. The ramen museum is basically like a themed food court with about 10 different ramen restaurants offering different regional varieties of ramen. I believe it was once a station called Narutobashi, as there are many floors and passages similar to the typical train stations in Tokyo. The entire room is set up to look like pre-war Japan with ads of films painted on the brick walls and little Vespas. We tried two different shops. The first was very yummy. The second was ok.. partly due to the fact that the guy working it was pretty rude, and then Ian felt betrayed by me. I had told him there was a piece of meat that was pretty tasty. I gave him what I thought was a piece of that meat which he feels certain may have been a piece of sponge that fell into the broth. We will never truly know, but to my defense, he really shouldn't have continued to chew on it if he felt it wasn't actually food.

Finally we went back to Yokohama station and decided we'd just walk around for a little while before heading back to Tokyo. We walked towards the water where there was a building that looked like a cruise ship. It was actually shopping center with some restaurants made to look that way. It was pretty cute actually, but since it was about 9 or 10pm, all the shops were all closed. So we headed on home to Shinjuku. Still Yokohama left a great impression and is worthy of revisiting.

Ye Olde Ramen Town

Ye Olde Ramen Town

The Sleeping Mountain

Day 10: The Sleeping Mountain
On our last trip to Japan, we spent the majority of it in Tokyo, so this time around we were curious about areas outside of the metropolis. Queue in Mt. Fuji, or Fujisan, as locals call it. In Japan, the mountains are often called -san at the end of their name because the Japanese believe everything has a kami (spirit), so it is given the honorary -san like "Mr. Fuji".

Weird sculpture, check.  konbini snack , check. Lake view, check. While this area is pretty, I can say that the Chuckanuts still beat it out.

Weird sculpture, check. konbini snack, check. Lake view, check. While this area is pretty, I can say that the Chuckanuts still beat it out.

By following the directions by this travel blogger, we were able to navigate to Kawaguchiko, the area with the best view of Mt. Fuji--assuming you can see it. Once we arrived, we were pretty certain we wouldn't be able to see Fujisan, but we decided to walk towards the lake and have a picnic. On the way over we stopped by a little anime shop, and it was my first (and only) experience having to take my shoes off to shop in a store. I've had to take my shoes off to try on clothes in fitting rooms for some of the smaller boutiques, but never to simply walk around a shop. We stopped by the supermarket to grab some snacks on the way to the lake. It certainly wasn't a fancy meal, just croquettes and other konbini (convenience store) snacks. After taking a few snapshots, eating our lunch and walking up a hillside to see the lake view, we made our way to the station.

I've never tried it, but this is the stuff you can't import. It's called   awamori  . Photo from  https://fluffykat.wordpress.com

I've never tried it, but this is the stuff you can't import. It's called awamori. Photo from https://fluffykat.wordpress.com

Ultra helpful map, right?

Ultra helpful map, right?

It should be noted that the only area map we saw was one that was created and sponsored by the local sake brewery. We did make a stop by the brewery where I had to convince Ian to buy some sake for his godmother, as he was concerned that he wouldn't be able to bring alcohol in his luggage back to the US. In case you're wondering, you're allowed to bring up to 1 gallon of alcohol as long as it isn't something banned like Wormwood Absinthe or that cobra scale booze famous in Okinawa. Anyways, it wasn't really the sake that mattered, it was the fact that the bottle was cute because it was shaped like Fujisan. 😝 The time we spent in Fuji wasn't more than about two hours, but it was still a really nice reprieve from the hustle that is Tokyo.

When we got back to Tokyo we decided we'd grab ramen at a couple shops in Tokyo Station. There is a "ramen street" under the station, named as such because apparently one shop opened up, and then another and another and they all competed. Also, it's not really a street so much as a restaurant corridor because when Japan makes a subway station, they're also making a shopping mall/food court/art gallery. The first restaurant I chose wasn't actually part of ramen street, as I assumed, but the displays looked so yummy. Unfortunately, the ramen was not very good. While ramen noodles are originated in China, apparently Chinese-style ramen is not my fortè. We then went to another shop, Rokurinsha, that was rated as the most popular in Ramen Street, with about a 30 minute wait in line. The style of ramen was called tsukemen which is where you're served the broth and the noodles cold on the side. You then dip the cold noodles in the hot broth and slurp away. While Ian had tried tsukemen, it was my first time and I can't say I was much of a fan. Oh, well. Win some, lose some.

Just a typical subway station. Really, though.

Just a typical subway station. Really, though.

Cute desserts, Ramen Street and artwork. All normal things at a subway station, right?

Cute desserts, Ramen Street and artwork. All normal things at a subway station, right?