We got up when the alarm went off at 6:45, but we couldn’t remember why we set the alarm for so early.  Our guide wasn’t picking us up until 8:30, and yes we needed to pack, but we didn’t have that much stuff.  We got cleaned up, got mostly packed, and then went to breakfast.  A bit like the breakfast buffet we had in Palau, the hotel had a nice mix of Eastern and Western foods.  We each got some Miso soup and congee along with bacon and croissants and whatnot.  There was a TV in the dining room that was showing US political news – it was only too easy to ignore.

We brought our bags downtown to checkout a little before 8:30, and Dewey, Clarita, and our guide Teru were already there.  Teru was a private guide that Dewey hired through Viator.  There weren’t very many group tours scheduled today because of it being Golden Week.  We weren’t sure if that was because employees had the day off for the holiday or some other reason.  Teru told us that we’d need to get to Tokyo Station so that we could get on a train to Kamakura, and that we needed to make a couple short transfers – the same ones that we’d done in the opposite order coming back from Hakone yesterday.  So we took a short walk to the Higashi-Ginza station, went one stop to Ginza, then went a couple stops on the Ginza line to Tokyo Station.  

At the Tokyo Station we first went to lockers to drop our bags, as we’d be coming back to Tokyo Station later in the day to head to Matsumoto.  Teru led us to where the coin lockers were, and for a nominal fee ($10 for two lockers) we put away everything besides what we needed for Kamakura.  We then went up a level (or maybe two), left the subway part of the station and went into the train part of the station, and got on the Yokosuka line headed south towards Kamakura.

On the train Teru showed us that the rows of seats can be flipped around, and once he had a row facing us, he showed us on some maps where we were going on the train and also where we’d be going once in Kamakura.  He indicated it was likely to be very busy in Kamakura, so he asked us to prioritize what we wanted to see, just in case. Crystal picked the Giant Buddha, and it was good she picked, because Justin couldn’t remember exactly what he wanted to see in Kamakura.  So Teru indicated once we got to Kamakura that we’d get on the small local train heading west through town and see the Giant Buddha and the Hasedera Temple.  The train down to Kamakura took about an hour, and went through south Tokyo and Yokohama.  Yokohama was a bit like other large towns right next to more recognizable towns (think Oakland, Jersey City) – not as nice, not as glitzy, definitely less interesting architecture.

In Kamakura, there were a ton of people, well into the thousands, which was something given that the city has around 200,000 people.  The local train was quite crowded, packed in like sardines, but at least we could breathe okay.  We got off the train with almost everyone else, as everyone was headed to either the giant Buddha or Hasedera.  Despite mass transit being so busy in Japan, people still orderly get into single file lines for the stairwell or escalator whilst exiting. Out on the street, the sidewalks were very narrow and they were packed, and it wasn’t feasible to walk at all in the street as the streets were quite narrow and packed as well.  So we all walked at the speed of the slowest walker.  But again, it was very orderly - no one was trying to pass or push through the line of people. The walk over to the Giant Buddha was probably 10-15 minutes from the train station.

The Giant Buddha was as advertised, absolutely huge.  Teru explained to us how they made it, by framing up different levels and then pouring in liquid that solidified.  There are two huge holes in the back of the statue where, after everything dried and cooled, workers climbed in to remove the interior framing.  The grounds were quite well maintained, with lots of azaleas, Japanese maples, and other plants we weren’t as familiar with.  We meandered around for 20-30 minutes, then walked over to Hasedera Temple.

Hasedera was very interesting, with multiple buildings at the base of a hill, with varying elevations.  The coloration was a contrast of black edging and light brown exteriors.  The buildings had several large Buddhas, some of which we were allowed to photograph and others not.  After we looked at the various buildings, Justin and Dewey went up a hill above the buildings where one could look down on the buildings but also out at Sagami Bay.  There was a large beach that looked packed (it was upper 70s outside), and lots of sailboats out in the bay.  It wasn’t the clearest day, but the view was still good.  We can only imagine what it must be like on the clearest days.  After coming down the hill, all four of us went into a cave right near the temple that had several carvings inside the cave, plus also some designated areas where people (for a purchase fee) place chess piece-sized buddhas around.  

The walk back to the train station was on the warm side, as it was the middle of the day and there wasn’t much breeze.  The train ride back to Kamakura from the Hase station was packed, probably a bit tighter than in the morning, but still manageable, especially because the AC was cranking.  At the Kamakura station we grabbed some small stuff for lunch, and ate and walked on our way to the bus station on the opposite side of the train station.  The line for the bus had a couple hundred people in it, but there were several buses, so the line moved pretty quickly.  By the time we got on the bus our lunch was gone.  We drove north up the main drag through Kamakura, then turned east out towards the Hokoku-ji Temple.  The bus didn’t go much faster than walking, as there were pedestrians everywhere walking around town.  What should have been a 10 minute ride was more like 15-20.

At Hokoku-ji, while it was still quite busy, it seemed much less stressful as the trees and bamboo made it very peaceful.  There was Moso Bamboo everywhere, including lots of new shoots that were almost black in color.  We walked around the grounds for a bit (the temple itself isn’t much to speak of), then got some of the famous green tea at a small seating area in the corner of the grounds.  We drank our tea, listened to the wind flow through the bamboo, and watched the water flow through into a small stream/pond.

We took the bus back towards town, but got off right in the middle of town to see a giant Shinto shrine, Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu.  There was a giant gate and bridge at the south end, with the shrine at the north end.  The gate, the shrine, and the main drag through town were all in a straight line (although Justin and his OCD noticed there was a slight crook in it when we got to the shrine and looked back to the south).  At one of the buildings before the main shrine, we saw a Shinto wedding ending, and caught the bride and groom leaving to the cheers of hundreds of strangers.

We had to wait at the bottom of the stairs below the main shrine, as we think they were worried about having too many people up there.  So they’d clear the stairs for a  couple minutes, then let a horde of people come up, but like everything else we’d experienced in Japan, it was very organized and no one pushed or shoved their way to the front.  Up at the top, the view back to the south was nice, and the shrine itself was imposing.  Teru informed us how to properly make an offering at the shrine – throw your coins in, bow twice, clap twice, and then bow again before walking way.  We did as instructed, and one of the people behind us said “good job” as we walked off – we presume this wasn’t sarcasm.

The walk back to the Kamakura Station was extremely crowded, just like everything else on the day.  We wondered what a US equivalent was, maybe something like a holiday Monday in Laguna Beach?  We estimated there had to be 15-20k people wandering around town, as it was on par with what we’d see in downtown Los Angeles for an event at the Staples Center.  We got back to the train station a little before 4, and caught the 4pm train back to Tokyo.  On the ride back to Tokyo, we tried to figure out what to do for dinner.  Logistically, it would have been much easier to eat somewhere in Tokyo Station before getting our bags out of storage, but the flipside was that stuff outside of the station was orders of magnitude more extensive.  Eventually logistics won out, and we ate a sushi place in the Tokyo Station that Teru recommended.  Crystal, Dewey and Clarita shared several dishes, and Justin had a couple glasses of beer.  Right after we left, Justin got some risotto from another shop in the station.

We grabbed our bags, and then took a short trip to the Shinjuku Station.  The train out to Matsumoto has its eastern terminus in Shinjuku (a good deal west of Tokyo station), and we think that’s because if it went to Tokyo Station it would have needed to go right through (or under) the Imperial Palace.  Anyway, we got to Shinjuku a little before 7pm, but since we had reserved tickets, we couldn’t catch the 7pm train, so we waited for 8pm.  While Dewey and Clarita watched the bags, we wandered around the station, which basically meant wandering around the two grocery stores, as there wasn’t much more to look at.  We got some refreshments for the trip to Matsumoto, a Nest beer for Dewey, a can of Strawberry-Lilikoi nectar for Clarita, a bottle of sparkling sake for Crystal, and a fifth of Myers for Justin.

We boarded the train at 7:55 (Clarita at 7:54, when she hopped on a random train car before we convinced her we had time to walk to our car), and it was pretty empty, which was the good part.  The bad part was that the train was overly warm, definitely in the upper 70s if not 80.  Also, none of us had a bottle opener, or even keys, to help Dewey open his beer.  After about 15 minutes of fidgeting with different tools, coins, etc., some people sitting across the aisle felt pity for Dewey and helped with their keys, thankfully without any injuries or spilling any beer.  We spent the rest of the nearly three hour train ride (it was a limited express, meaning very few stops) taking naps and reading up on what awaited us in Matsumoto.

We arrived in town around 10:40 pm, and the only people in the train station besides us were teenagers and young adults going back to wherever from a day/night of partying.  There were a number of taxis out front, and we had no trouble hailing one.  The cab ride to the hotel (Hotel Kagetsu) was just a few minutes.  We couldn’t remember which hotel Dewey had chosen, but Hotel Kagetsu was, upon first appearances, very nice.  Check-in was very quick, we were in our room by 11:00, and probably asleep by 11:05.