I woke up with a peculiar smile on my face and spring in my step on this Tokyo morning. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I knew the day's itinerary and was looking forward to all of it, but where was this child-like excitement coming from? Not quite sure, I got ready, headed down to breakfast, and met up with our group. It was our last day in Tokyo, before we'd be taking the train to Kyoto the next morning, and the feeling was bitter-sweet. So far, this city had dazzled my every sense. Was I ready to leave? No. Was I exhilarated to be visiting another part of the country? Yes!
Our first visit of the day was a temple. This was my favorite temple of the whole trip. It is called the Engaku-ji temple and is in Kamakura. There, Japanese moss grows everywhere and Kinku trees surround you.
There was a hot yet cool breeze. The kind that feels hot, but because you're so warm already, the breeze cools you down because it hits the sweat on the back of your neck.
We walked up 140 steps to see the Ogane Bell (Great bell). It is rung 108 times on New Year's Day. Why this exact number? The Buddhists believe that there are that many sins and by ringing the bell, it expels those sins from all, so as to start a fresh year, sin-free. After gazing at the bell and thinking about how long it has been around, and how much it has seen, I took in the view.
As I was heading down the steps and towards the exit, I noticed an adorable group of identically dressed children. Boys and girls alike were gathered around in their blue scouts uniforms, surely on a field trip. I would see them again later that day in the city, and still coo over how cute they were.
The Great Buddha of Kamakura is very great indeed. It resides at the Kotokuin Temple. Our tour leader stopped us just out of sight and gave us a little history lesson before running ahead of us so he could see our reactions. As I turned the corner (already having snuck a peek through the bushes), I really was amazed at the size of it. The entire Buddha is made of bronze and is the second tallest of its kind in Japan.
I loved being there.
The statue with the red cloth around its neck is called a Jizo. This represents a child or infant who has passed. It was resting quietly behind the big Buddha.
We finished off our afternoon with a bit of shopping on the main street in town, an ice cream and a bit of lunch to tide us over until our last destination of the day.
My ice cream was half sweet potato and half green tea. I was hesitant. There, I said it. When I saw sweet potato, I thought of starch. I didn't want a starchy ice cream, but I submitted and thank goodness! It was sweet and cool and refreshing and a pleasant surprise for my tastebuds, who at this point had gone on a whirlwind.
This little shop had samples of everything. I tried one of absolutely every variety of cracker ball and nut that they had. I wasn't the only one though. Following closely behind me were two older Japanese ladies taking generous handfulls of each.
I still had that giddy step that I had yet to identify the source of. I was thrilled about my day thus far, but what was this all about really?
We jumped on a train, eventually jumped off, the kids put their backpacks in lockers at the station, and we walked out into this...
All of a sudden the jump in my step grew, my smile widened, and I knew that this is what had me feeling as if I was running around on a pogo stick all day. We were about to spend the evening at Disney Sea. It's the only one of its kind in the world and since I hadn't been to Disney Land (Paris) since elementary school, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but my body seemed to have an idea, since clearly it was having a happy dance that I had no control over.
We bought our tickets (half day), showed them to a smiling young gentleman, made our way in to the place "where dreams come true", and oood and ahhhhhd at everything around us.
Breaking off into groups, we all had different strategies. My group had a clear plan of what kinds of rides we wanted to be on. I had never been on a proper roller coaster, so that had to be done before the evening's end.
We started with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (I kept hiding my face, certain that at any moment Jaws was going to rear his ugly head), then decided to wait in line at the Indiana Jones ride. That was the best decision I'd made in a long time. What a thrill! I would have ridden that all day long. It was exciting beyond words.
After smiling so hard my face hurt, we ran into our tour leader and another parent and went to ride on magic carpets and then take a boat ride into Sinbad's world. Then, I smelled something delicious. I had caught scent of it earlier, but finally I found the source of it. There were popcorn carts scattered all over the park, each selling different flavors. Strawberry, salt, butter, curry, and best of all, caramel, were being popped. I say this with the utmost conviction, it was the best caramel popcorn that I have ever had. The students followed suit and seemed equally pleased. It served as a good snack as we waited in line for Journey to the Center of the Earth.
The last ride of the evening was on Raging Spirits. My hair went flying into the faces of the people behind me and by the time I stepped off, I looked like I had taken a time machine to the 80's and had come back with a fabulous poofy do.
We walked through Disney's Cape Cod and waved to all of the park's employees who waved with big smiles, thanking us for coming and wishing us a good night.
As I looked around me, how could anyone not be happy at a place like this? No matter how old you are, what you do for a living, where you come from, or what you believe in, it is truly a magical place that can make almost anyone feel like a kid and leave them with an ache in the face from smiling so much.
The next morning we were off to Kyoto.