Japan Kamakura

Spring in Kamakura

It might sound a bit cliched, but the move from Tokyo to Kamakura has also bought with it a much keener sense of the passing seasons (for which Japan is famed and can’t stop talking about). Daily walks in the hills surrounding where we live have allowed me to witness the changing sights, smells, and sounds of nature as it goes through cycles of growth and decay.

In the past few weeks, I’ve seen trails that were wide open suddenly shrink under new growth, birds sing out from dawn till dusk, baby bamboo shoots undergo incredible growth spurts, and caterpillars pupate into beautiful butterflies (not to mention the cherry blossom).

Early spring bought with it gorgeous warm light which made it feel like golden hour all day long. The crisp cool air was perfect for impromptu hikes and with the foliage yet to have its growth spurt we were able to discover many new hidden trails not on the map.

In the garden of Kakuon-ji (覚園寺) temple we came across a curious citrus fruit that I’d never seen before known as the Buddha’s hand (仏手柑). According to tradition, Buddha prefers the “fingers” of the fruit to be in a position where they resemble a closed rather than open hand, as closed hands symbolise the act of prayer. 

Japanese pygmy woodpecker

The cherry blossom arrived early this year and while COVID may have put hanami parties on pause, that didn’t seem to dampen peoples enthusiasm for visiting places like Kenchoji (建長寺) temple which was full of masked visitors.

Well-fed squirrels at Meigetsuin (明月院) temple.

While I had heard that bamboo was one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, I never realised just quite how fast before witnessing one go from knee height to taller than myself in just four days!

Baby bamboo is a delicacy in many parts of Asia and on our hikes we came across numerous people with wicker baskets foraging for them (though some private landowners were not so keen on the idea). As our local vegetable shop was at pains to explain, young bamboo contains a toxin that produces cyanide in the gut so proper care is needed to make them edible.

Wormy

Living in a hilly valley not far from the sea we’ve also experienced some interesting weather. As I understand it, during the day, the sun heats up mountain air rapidly while the valley remains relatively cooler. Convection causes it to rise, causing a valley breeze. At night, the process is reversed causing a mountain breeze (which has been particularly ferocious sometimes).

Warming temperatures mean it has been time to put on the wetsuits again and we’ve been continuing to learn how to windsurf in the bay. This weekend we were joined by a baby dolphin who seemed to have become separated from its mother. Luckily a rescue boat picked it up and took it back out to deeper waters.

Summer is one again rapidly approaching, and with it the immense heat an humidity that kept us indoors for much of August and September last year. It’ll be interesting to see if we’re able to find new respites from the sun, perhaps that’s what all the caves in the hills are for!

Author

Originally from the UK, David is designer and wanderer currently based in Kamakura. Prior to this, he lived in China and still returns frequently to continue exploring this vast and varied land. He started Randomwire in 2003 to chronicle his travels and occasional musings. Feel free to drop him a line.

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