Kamakura + Earthquake

13 Mar

After spending a week in Tokyo, I decided to head to Kamakura for 2 days. Kamakura (a little history if you’re interested) was a great town – it’s a smaller more rural area, filled with temples and is right on the ocean. The first day, I rented bikes with 2 other people and we rode around to the ocean visiting temples on the way – here’s a picture I took of the famous big buddha:

The second day we decided to go hiking through the mountains for a few hours and visiting some temples along the way. We then decided to grab some okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) and other food which you cooked yourself on a hot plate on the table. It was delicious!

Right when we finished our lunch this was when the earthquake struck. I have a quick video below of that:

It was definitely a little scary, but luckily we weren’t close to the epicenter of it. What I found interesting was what happened after this. The power was out across the whole town, so all traffic lights and everything were out. Our hostel was about an hour walk away, and since the buses were not running, we decided to walk it. While walking back we saw normal civilians directing traffic, which I don’t think we would ever see back home – people genuinely cared about the safety of others. When we got back to the hostel we also learned that the suntori vending machines (which are extremely abundant around Japan – at least 1 at every block corner) have a built in “emergency” lever that release free beverages in case of an emergency. Again, this tells you a little something about the culture in Japan – no one has ever taken advantage of this lever – they respect the property as it is, and the mere fact that a company can have this lever there for the safety of their citizens without worrying that it will be abused is amazing. Here’s a quick picture I took of kamakura station after the earthquake:

Back at the hostel we decided to pick up a few litres of sake (which interestingly comes in milk-style cartons here) and about 15 of us sat around these tables and drank sake and talked all night. The hosts of Kamakura Guest House were also extremely kind and made dinner for all of us free of charge, and also brought out their expensive bottle of sake for sharing later in the night. It was interesting how people from Holland, Kuwait, France, Japan, Australia, and Canada could get along so well. We spent the night braving the after-shocks and just generally having a good time (given the circumstances) with no electricity:

I guess my main take-away from this experience, and just generally my whole experience in Japan is that Japanese people have the right idea. They are kind, caring, and helping. I forgot to mention that when I arrived in Kamakura, an older lady saw me looking at directions, she told me in Japanese “I’ll show you” – left her bus stop station and walked me to the front door of the Guest House – said have fun, and left.  And these are not isolated experiences, a guy I met here told me he went to a super-market, asked for directions, and the guy said he can’t speak English. So the shop-owner came back 5 minutes later with his wife and a car, and they drove him to his hostel in their own car and did not ask for anything in return.

I guess this sign-post I saw basically sums up my feeling about my experience in Japan thus far:

I hope the worst of it is over. The North-East of Japan has gotten it really bad and I’m personally trying to stay west for the time being and will be spending the next week in Osaka. The nuclear reactor is on the brink of meltdown in Fukushima, so I suppose I’ll wait to see what I do from here. I was extremely lucky that I was not more north at the time of the earthquake or it could have been a more dramatic experience.

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