May 30, 2014

Golden Week Holiday

When four national holidays fall in one week, the Japanese prefer to call it “Golden Week.

1.    April 29: Old emperor’s birthday 

2.   May 3: Constitution day 

3.   May 4: Greenery day 

4.   May 5: Children’s day or boy’s day 

Every year in April, as folks in the west get busy with spring cleaning, most Japanese go on a holiday. Unlike the other two major holiday seasons in Japan, namely New Year’s and mid-summer Obon, golden week doesn’t have any traditional or religious ties. Rather, the warm and pleasant spring weather, with consecutive holidays, seems like an open invitation from nature to see the world. Since most people travel , major domestic and international flights, local hotels and trains are nearly always, fully booked, not to mention the long lines and crowds everywhere. 

I would say, “Spring Craziness” pretty much sums up the Mayhem during the golden week holidays. Like everybody else, this golden week, my family and I also took off to visit, Kamakura, Yokohama City and Hakkeijima Sea Paradise. On our way to Yokohama by the Super Express Train, I was lucky to get a great shot of mount Fuji from my window seat with my iphone 5s!

Mount Fuji from our train

Day 1: (May 3rd): Kamakura 

If you really want to feel the Zen power and also wish to visit a very traditional tourist spot in Japan, Kamakura seems perfect! It is a city in Kanagawa Prefecture, 50 kilometers south, south west of Tokyo, and a 25-minute train ride from Yokohama station. 


Great Buddha Temple (Koutoku-in Temple) 
One of the most famous tourist spots in Japan, this Zen temple has the second largest, open air, bronze statue of Amitabha Buddha (Daibutsu), standing tall at just over 13 meters or 43 feet. The statue is hollow, and we can see the inside. Originally, it was a wooden statue built in 1243, over a period of 10 years. Unfortunately, a storm in 1248 destroyed the statue and in 1252, the statue was re-constructed in bronze. A large tsunami in 1948 washed away the building that hosted the statue and since then, it remains in open air. 

Yuigahama Beach 
From Koutoku-in Temple, we went to Yuigahama beach, a 10-minute walk south of Kamakura station. It is one of the closest and most popular beaches near Tokyo, to enjoy marine sports and other beach activities in summer. The day we visited, the beach was pretty windy, pleasantly crowded with people walking their dogs, taking a stroll, collecting shells or surfing. This horse shoe shaped beach is said to be very popular with surfers, except in summer, when surfing is prohibited. While my son went to pick shells with his dad, I just looked out into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and spread my wings.

The wind and fresh air cleared my head, and I felt calm and composed. Sometimes doing nothing and just listening to the sound of the waves seems so satisfying, doesn’t it? 

Day 2 (May 4th): Yokohama City 

Our youngest son is only 9, and like any nine-year-old, he would rather go to a theme park than temples! So we planned our second day in Yokohama city, with him in mind.

First, we took a boat ride on the “Sea Bus” nearby Yokohama station, to the newly developed Yokohama Bay area or “Minato Mirai 21 ”.
From there we walked along the Minato Mirai waterfront to the “Cosmo World” theme park.


The main attraction of Cosmo World is the “Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris wheel,"one of the largest in Japan. It is a little over 107 meters (about 369 feet) high, with 60 gondolas having one wheel-chair accessible gondola. One rotation takes approximately 15 minutes.
The Cosmo clock in the center of the Ferris wheel, is said to be the biggest clock in the world and at night, the built in rainbow colored light's of the Cosmo clock, dazzle in the Yokohama skyline.
The panoramic view of Tokyo Bay and the Yokohama Skyline from the Ferris wheel was breathtaking! 



Our last stop for the day was the “Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse." The three storied, historical buildings were originally custom houses, built in the late 19th century,
Presently it has shopping malls, a restaurant arcade, and is often used as an event venue. From the third-floor balcony of the red brick warehouse, one can get a great view of Yokohama Bay, including Yokohama Bay Bridge. 

Day 3 (May 5th ): Hakkeijima Sea Paradise 

Since May 5th was boy's day in Japan, we decided to celebrate it with our boys at this maritime theme park, situated on a man-made island in Yokohama Bay called Hakkeijima Sea Paradise,

which is a 30-35 minutes train ride from Yokohama station. It is one of the largest three storied aquariums in Japan, called the “Aqua Museum," and includes other attractions such as “Dolphin Fantasy," (where one can feed and get a chance to pet dolphins and other marine life) and also enjoy fun rides and shopping!
There are over 500 different kinds of fish and more than 100, 000 other amazing sea creatures. One of the popular attractions is a walk through an undersea, viewing tunnel.
Giant Whale Shark


Pink Jelly Fish

Besides the huge aquarium, the 107 meters high, vertical fall ride (BLUE FALL), was a quite a thrilling experience for my eldest son, as the rest of us looked on.  

Indeed time spent with family is very precious,  and I think the fun and laughter we share is what keeps me going. I cherish every moment of our time together and I'm truly blessed with three loving, caring and handsome men in my life!