I am at a small French roadside cafe in Kamakura, a small seaside town outside of Tokyo. It is cozy and warm with only a handful of other patrons. I fumble through the ordering process, mostly by pointing. Thankfully, the Japanese word Bejitarian is pronounced very much like vegetarian, and the lady behind the counter seems to understand. My savory pastry is hot and filled with something tasty, cheese, I assume.
At the table beside me, two ladies sip tea and speak quietly in Japanese, which sounds romantic, more like Spanish or Italian than other Asian languages. Both look my way and smile. One gets up, returns with a napkin, hands it to me and nods. I have no idea where she got it, but I am grateful for the gesture.
I had been walking a long way on a deserted road when I stumbled upon this place. I’m in a land more foreign than ever. Seven thousand miles from home. Alone.
An hour-long train ride from Tokyo got me to Kamakura, a place so green and quiet, a huge contrast from the city.
At the Hokokuji temple, I am surrounded by thousands of towering Bamboo stalks. Wind rushes through, a minute or so at a time, creating a sound like nothing I have heard. At first, standing beneath the giant swaying stalks is unsettling, but after a few moments, the clanging together of wood and rustling leaves soothe me.
In the distance, the soft prattle of foreign voices.
A short walk away is Sugimotodera, the oldest temple in Kamakura (734). I’ll sit here awhile in the tranquility of the ancient temple before heading back to board the train.
You would never know nearly 200,000 live here amongst more than eighty shrines and temples. It is quiet and peaceful. A much-needed refuge from the chaos of Tokyo.