Saturday was a very full and wonderful day!
A second-year JET organized a trip to Kamakura, a city southeast of Tokyo, to go to the beach. We arrived before the group, so we walked to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu temple, which was simply beautiful. It was my first experience at a temple, so I learned the proper way to wash and pray.
We met the group, grabbed some popsicles, which were a lifesaver in the heat, and headed to the beach. It was hot and crowded. I was sweating buckets by the time we found a spot, and got settled. The water was much warmer than I was expecting, and a little dirty. You had to wade through a forest of seaweed and algae to get to some semi-clean water. But, in the heat, it was amazing nonetheless.
We spent most of the day there, heading back and forth from the beachside bars and restaurants to our spot on the sand and into the water. It was very relaxing, and exactly what I needed after a long and stressful week. I stared out across the water, thinking back to just a few weeks ago when I was in San Diego, looking at the same ocean and thinking about Japan on the other side.
In the evening, we headed back into Tokyo for the Sumida River Fireworks Festival. The Festival has a very long history dating back to the 1700s. It has been suspended several times through history, but it has been held every year since 1978, and it is on the largest and most famous firework festivals in Tokyo. The subway was filled with men and women wearing traditional Kimonos and Yukatas for the festival. We met up with a bigger group of JETs at a station right by the Tokyo Sky Tree.
The fireworks were spectacular, though partially blocked by buildings. There were big crowds of people out, and the atmosphere was lively. We shared wine and other drinks (because as I learned, Japan does not have open-container laws). I felt welcomed by the other JETs, and excited for the year ahead. It was the perfect way to end my first week in Tokyo.