What a day! I had made plans with my friend Mizuki a few weeks ago, assuming we would do something simple like lunch and shopping. A few days ago she texted me and said she made a reservation for us for a Wagashi making class, but little did I know it would be that fun—and that it would be only a small part of a fun filled day!
I started out the day at the Kaihin Makuhari station. I was initially freaked out because the station was absolutely insane with people. There were lines of people everywhere and initially I was worried they were all waiting to get on the train. However, they had actually all just gotten off the train and were going to a gaming convention in Makuhari. When I got to the platform, I saw a train arrive from Tokyo and literally everyone but two or three ojiisans got off the train. It was a mob of otaku, and it was hilarious. I was relieved that I could watch from afar and not be apart—I imagine it is similar to the running of the bulls. 😉
After a 40 minute train ride, I got to Tokyo Station, met Mizuki, and hopped on another train headed to Kamakura. From Tokyo, Kamakura is Southwest, and the train we were on passed through Yokohama—another destination I would love to go to while I am here! We got off at the most ridiculous station I have ever seen, which was basically just a sidewalk next to the train tracks. Mizuki needed to add more money to her Suica card, but I had already left the station. However, the station was so small, the worker didn’t even blink when I walked back in, and another worker waved me on through when Mizuki had barely described the situation.
We walked a short way down the street to a very traditional Japanese building which houses a famous Italian restaurant. I am so happy that Mizuki made the reservation and that she was with me, because I definitely would not have been able to find the door… T_T As I said it was a very traditional Japanese building, and the front door was a sliding door that to me looked like a wall…
We entered the building and sat down at a bar across from the kitchen area. The entire restaurant was contained in the one room, and there were probably 6 tables in addition to the bar area where we were.
It was incredible. I am fairly sure that everyone had to have a reservation, and for the same time, because everyone was served their first course at the same time. It had a chilled soup, salad, frittata, and crostini. Delicious.
We then had to choose our main meal from a list of pastas and pizzas. We decided to share a Margarita Pizza and Mushroom Pasta. Again, it was fantastic, but it was a little funny, as they gave us the pizza first and didn’t give us the pasta until after we had finished it. What would they have done if we hadn’t wanted to share?!
After lunch we had some time to kill before our cooking class would start, so we went to a temple that was on the way there. It was quite beautiful and had several nice walking paths in and amongst various buildings and bamboo and such.
It was nice to see a smaller shrine temple like this one, after seeing the much larger structures like sensoji and meiji-jingu.
We also came across a “lucky god” after going through a creepy tunnel and up some stairs. The sign said that if we touched the belly we would receive good luck—and it seemed to work, because the rest of the day we had great luck!
Making our way to the wagashi classroom, we both began to feel as if we were in the wrong area. The path was incredibly narrow and overgrown, there was only one sign that said we were going in the right direction…
But just then, we appeared in a clearing with this adorable, ancient Japanese style house.
Soon after the class started—with Mizuki and I, a handful of Japanese housewives, and the teacher in her kimono. Needless to say, they were all surprised that there was a gaijin in the class! >.< I am pretty sure they were all worried that I wouldn’t know what was going on, and that I would completely suck at making wagashi, so I was thrilled to be able to prove them wrong on both accounts. We went around the room and did self introductions (because what Japanese situation would be complete without one?) and after I had uttered barely 3 words they were all over me in traditional Japanese fashion, proclaiming how good my Japanese was and how cute I was.
We all watched as the teacher demonstrated the first steps, and we followed along at our own tables.
Having experience with baking and working with my hands (see my gum paste roses here!) I did not find this very challenging, and was immediately the object of praise, with the teacher and all the women looking at what I was doing and basically squealing at how cute and wonderful my wagashi was. I think it was about 75% because I was gaijin, 15% because that is what Japanese people say to each other, and only 10% because it was actually good!
It was such an incredible experience, and I loved being able to learn something about Japanese cooking in an actual classroom. We each made three wagashi and then were given one that the teacher had made beforehand along with some chrysanthemum tea—because that was the theme of the wagashi we were making.
After class, Mizuki and I went to the train station to take an incredibly small, incredibly famous train a few stops to an area nearby.
It was such a cute area, with shops lining either side of the street selling a wide range of products. We went to a temple with the third largest daibutsu—Buddha—in Japan. When we entered, Mizuki went up to the counter and asked for two tickets. Originally the woman gave her two tickets, but then she saw that she was with me, took one ticket back, and gave me a gaijin ticket… T_T
Even though I knew the statue would be big, I was still surprised when I saw it.
In a building to the side of the Buddha, there were shoes that would fit that size of Buddha…
We didn’t stay for long, and headed to the Kamakura station to go shopping and sightseeing in the area around the station. I feel like I keep saying this, but I love this area! There were so many cool shops, and there were so many people wandering about; it had a really great atmosphere.
We went in a few shops—Mizuki bought some famous dove shaped cookies as a souviner and I got some presents for people but I can’t tell you what they are in case the person I am giving them to is reading this!
After that we headed over to yet another shrine, this one was built into a hillside and required going up a steep incline of stairs in order to reach. The shrine was vibrantly colored and was really cool, but better than just going there, we were able to witness a Shinto wedding ceremony! :O
We saw that they were preparing for the ceremony and decided to stay and wait for it to happen. The couple was in very traditional clothing, and everything was happening in a small pavilion at the base of the stairs of the temple, so we could see and hear it all.
Walking down the street a little, we popped into a coffee shop that was recommended to us by one of Mizuki’s friends. It is an independent shop and was very unique from any coffee shop I have ever been in before.
I got an iced latte, and they gave it to me in a “make your own” sort of way, which I adored.
When we got to our dinner destination, we again were at a very traditional Japanese building, but this time the food was Japanese as well.
We were seated at a table with a grill in the center, and ordered okonomiyaki and yakisoba—both of which we were able to make ourselves! We were given the ingredients in large bowls, and Mizuki told me what to do in order to make it correctly.
There weren’t many people in the restaurant, and one of the servers came over and showed us some mad skills with how to make yakisoba, and showed us how to tell if the person making it was a pro or not. They were incredibly nice to us—just as everyone had been the entire day—and I had a really great experience.
I was also in heaven with having the chance to make okonomiyaki in Japan! It was one thing on my “food to do list” that I had not gotten to do since I arrived three weeks ago.
I had a fantastic day, and I am so appreciative to Mizuki for showing me around to all of these places. I think this day with Mizuki has really shown me how valuable it is to make connections and how fun it can be to step out of your comfort zone and try something new or go with the flow. It is one of my goals while I am here to gain friends as well as cultural and language experiences, which before I got to Japan I was not sure was something I would be able to accomplish to the extent that I have already been able to, and I am so thankful for how everything has turned out.
As always, thank you for following my adventures and for staying with me after this incredibly long—but hopefully fun—post!