I found myself standing in front of a torii gate, golden emblems decorating its surface and stone lanterns standing on either side. The entrance, leading through a wooded path, lay ahead of me – flocks of people passing underneath it, following the path deeper into the forest.
Walking along the path and it’s curves, I pass a wall with stacks of sake barrels on top of each other; black kanji painted on the pristine white surface and golden ropes tying each other together.
Finally reaching the end of the path, I enter the Meiji shrine. Despite being in Tokyo, there are hardly any sounds of the metropolis; no cars, no buses – just silence. Walking around the shrine, I watch people praying and people writing on wooden ema, hanging them up whilst saying a prayer. The golden decorations can be seen everywhere on lamps and doors, glinting in the summer light coming through the trees.
A stir in the crowd caught my attention; a couple dressed in ceremonial clothing make their way towards the alter. The pure white fabric of the bride shines bright against the golden brown wood of the shrine, contrasting against the pitch black cloth of the groom. I hastily rush into position to capture a fleeting glimpse of the bride – one photo is all I need; snapping away for what felt like ages – trying to avoid people moving into the frame, I stop and conceded, moving myself away to shade to look at my photos in anticipation.
Relief washes over me as I look at the one photo that I am proud of, that I captured in the moment. I head back east, making my way towards Harajuku. I decide to walk through the smaller streets first, looking at what is behind Harajuku, looking at the more unique shops on offer. Turn after turn I walk, no really sure if I’m walking in an ever increasing outward spiral, moving away from Harajuku. I pass houses, shops and cafes until I hear the noise of a crowd. Following the sound, I reach Takeshite street filled with people walking around each other as they head in opposite directions, with storekeepers shouting to catch someone’s attention to sell to. Slowly joining the crowd, I follow them along the street – looking from one side of the street to the other, watching what people buy; shoes, shirts, fashion accessories.
As I continued my journey from Harajuku to Kamaura, I boarded an empty train carriage, bar two men dressed in suits, salarymen I assumed. The doors closed behind me and the train began to make its journey. I watched the cityscape of Tokyo pass by and gradually turn to countryside and farming fields. Part way through my journey, I changed trains to an old electric tram, painted in green and yellow. Slowly, it made its way through the town, the occasional creaking of the carriage echoed throughout as it passed housing and the sea front – the surface of the water glittering underneath the sun.
Reaching Kamakura, I made my way up the street to Hase temple. Even from the outside, I could see the statue. Slowly approaching it, I found myself staring up at Buddha – motionless, sitting on its mantle with the forest as it’s background.
Trekking up the hill away from the statue of Buddha, at the height of the sun, I wondered if I’ll ever reach the temple of the bamboo groove. Steadily, I continue up the hill, passing locals and exchanging greetings to each other, stopping off to grab a drink and an ice cream to make the journey more bearable in the heat. Eventually, I reach the entrance, which felt like a scene taken out of Lord of the Rings – cool, dark greens and browns spread across the path with trees curved in intricate ways and patterns.
Making my way further into the temple, I’m greeted with a view of a vibrant green bamboo forest, the gentle rustling permeating our through the temple grounds, the shadows of the leaves dancing on the stone floor. The quiet murmurs of visitors gently breaking the silence surrounding the temple.
Making my way back towards Kamakura, I was told by an elderly lady at a cafe about a photogenic spot by the sea. With my curiosity piqued, I followed her directions and found myself at a railway crossing, looking out towards the sea. Puzzled as to why there were so many photographers around me, I waited to see what was special about this area. In the distance, I could hear the regular sound of a train, which got louder as it approached. The loud sirens of the railway crossing began to sound and the yellow and black barriers stared to descend into their final position. With the sun setting again the pale blue sky, casting its fire orange glow over the sea, the familiar green and yellow train travelled across the scene in front of me and suddenly the sounds of camera clicks flooded the area. Waiting for the next train to pass through, I set myself up and framed the view. Anxiously waiting, the next train passed by and I joined in with the sound of the shutter clicks. Looking through what I had captured, I could see why the elderly lady said it was a photogenic spot.
Later, I soon discovered that the area was made famous by being used in an anime series which increased its popularity. Happy with the days events and the photos captured, I headed back home on the train, watching the scenery gradually revert back to the metropolis of Tokyo; watching the sun slowly set behind the cityscape.