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Saturday 25 April 2009

The Fastest Land Travel

Time really flies! It seems like yesterday that I first travelled on the fastest mode of transportation on land, but it was already a year ago. It was exactly one year ago when I boarded the fastest bullet train in Japan, if not the world; on 25 April 2008.

A few days before travelling, I received two tickets from the Matsumae International Foundation that sponsored us for the 'Study Tour' to the western part of Honshu.


One was the fare ticket and the other one was for the reserved seat. Did you notice that reserving a seat cost almost the same as the fare? Well, the foundation was just too kind to its research fellows.


These tickets were for the travel on Nozomi train, the fastest, super-duper express Shinkansen (bullet train).

I had to make my way to Tokyo Station from Saitama University by myself, so I set off very early just in case there is any hassle. That made me arrived at Tokyo Station one and a half hour earlier than the boarding time on Nozomi 121.


That saved my a lot of trouble for asking for direction as I didn't, and still don't speak Japanese. I could find my way through very easily with the signboards.


Since I was early, I made it to Platform 14 on time to wait for my train as well. The trains in Japan are extremely punctual that they never arrive at the platform too early or too late. So, the train was still yet to be seen.


It was only 10 minutes before departure that the train arrived, but not at the speed of a bullet, of course!


I checked on the train number and Nozomi No. 121 it was. So, I boarded the train following the other passengers to the car with my designated seat.


After settling down on my seat, the train departed soon after. I started to enjoy my travel on land at the speed of a bullet.


It was a silky smooth ride although the speed was approaching 400 km/h at its peak. I could even enjoy a pack of snack I bought at the platform without dropping the crumbs on myself, the seat and the floor.


The train arrived at my destination 2 hours and fourty-five minutes later, Kyoto Station, which is about 700 km away from Tokyo Station! Considering the time taken to and from the airports and the waiting time, this was faster than air travel.


Thursday 23 April 2009

Kamakura: Getting Around

When I visited Kamakura, I started with the two sites which are very near to Hase Station; Daibutsu and Hase-dera. Then I headed back to the station to get back to Kamakura town centre again to visit the other places of interest.


Hase Station itself is one of the places of interest in my opinion. It has got the style of an old train station in the 50s' or 60s'.



The Enoden Railway runs from Kamakura Station to Enoshima and Fujisawa. Hase Station is just three stations away from Kamakura Station.


Enoden is a street-car like train with small capacity. It can get very crowded during peak seasons.


The ride from Hase Station to the terminal station at Kamakura takes about only 5 minutes. The train will leave for Fujisawa or Enoshima again immediately.


Unlike the simplistic Hase Station, Kamakura Station has more commercial activities.


I was only able to purchase the day ticket for all the modes of public transport in Kamakura after I have returned from Hase as the ticket counter was still closed when I was there earlier. If not, I could have used this for my round trip to Hase as well.

With this ticket, I proceeded with my exploration of Kamakura without having to pay extra for transportation again.


Wednesday 22 April 2009

Sumo Wrestling: Part 10





Location: Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan
Event: Grand Sumo Tournaments
Date taken: September 22nd, 2008
Camera equipment: Nikon D300 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D

Monday 20 April 2009

Kamakura: Hase-dera

Hase-dera (Hase Temple) or Hase Kannon is most famous for its statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. It is also one of the most popular temple in the Kanto region.


The entrance to the temple up the hill is a small gate flanked by an old pine tree, typical of a Zen courtyard layout.


The temple garden and ponds at the foot of the hill are of typical Zen layout too.


The temple garden covers the whole passageway along the hill all the way up to the main hall.


There were always beautiful flowers to appreciate on the way up to the main hall as I was there during spring time.


There is also a pond along the way made into the shape of the symbol of Buddhism.


At the end of the passageway is the main hall where the 9.18 meter tall, gilded wooden statue of Kannon is housed and worshipped. This Kannon is an 11-faced Kannon who can cast an eye in every direction. Photo taking is not allowed inside the main hall, so I don't have any photo to show on the statue.


The terrace next to the temple's main buildings is a great place to have a little rest and to replenish the body fluid. Some local people were there creating their masterpieces of the temple paintings. It is also a good place to enjoy a great view of the coastal city of Kamakura.



At the side of the temple buildings is a small bamboo forest which looks like a scene in the movie 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'.


I explored further to the backyard of the temple buildings and there were more gardens and flowers.


I found another vantage point for the view of the coastal city of Kamakura at the backyard.


There are many statues of Buddha along the passageway in the gardens.


After coming down from the backyard, I visited the other temple buildings and saw a giant praying wheel and another gilded statue of Buddha.



Descending from the hill brought me back to the temple garden again, but on the opposite side.


I saw a passageway that resembled a secret path leading to a cave, so I followed that path an found myself in a small cave (Bentenkutsu) housing the statues of the minor gods.


Before leaving Hase-dera, I took a look at the wishing board. Any visitor can make a wish by writing down the message in any language and hang it on the board.


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