Obamacha Ice cream anyone?

Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
Trip End Feb 28, 2013

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Fantastic Friends and Food

Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Monday, June 6, 2011

Despite the many radioactive fall out warnings from concerned friends and family, it felt so good to set foot on Japan soil again. The efficiency of the immigration and customs procedures and politeness everyone shows each other is refreshing and reassuring. We touched down at 3 pm and were able get our luggage, hit the ATM, and get to the basement train station in plenty of time to catch the 4:18pm direct train to Kamakura. Dave snoozed on the train which is a common practice on Japanese trains. People-watching and watching the neighborhoods go by brought back many good memories. Dress styles have changed a little bit but the most noticeable difference is the lack of foreigners on the train. We saw only one other foreigner bop in and out of our car on the 2.5 hour journey.
Junko was waiting for us at the station and took a route home past our old house, up the narrow roads, to the top of Kamakura-yama (the mountain) and down the other side to Junko and Hiro's house. On a clear day we could see Mt Fuji from Kamakura-yama. We could not see Fuji-san this time. It was overcast... It's the rainy season.

A beautiful Ikebana arrangement greeted us in the entry hall. Junko has been taking lessons for years and it shows. Before we went much further, Junko showed us each an evacuation backpack with emergency supplies for us to grab in case of earthquake or tsunami. (don't miss the video). They have had the emergency packs for many years. But the Great East Japan Earthquake reinforced the need for disaster preparedness. While it was amusing to go though the supplies, Junko was dead serious that this is important stuff and we need to know it.

The dining table was set with delicious o-bento boxes for our dinner. The wonderfully made up delicate and delicious boxes are uniquely Japanese and Junko knows how to choose the very best. They are a real treat. 

It was so much fun to visit with our friends again. Our timing was perfect. Michelle was able to attend an Ikebana International (II) function (held monthly) and that way meet many of her friends at once. The location of the meeting was not exotic this time. Sometimes the meetings are held in temples or other special venues. The main thing was to be able to meet everyone again. On the program was an Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) exhibition and a Cuban singer/guitarist performance. A delicious lunch was served and members brought beautiful items to be auctioned off for fundraising. And this time, the proceeds went to the victims of the latest earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.Michelle's black sport pants passed again for dressy ones and, with neat top, looked presentable enough and no one was any the wiser

Junko and Michelle spent time walking the familiar narrow streets in Kamakura all the while looking for an appropriate departing gift for the Vice President of Ikebana International who is returning to the USA. Being a board member of that organization enhanced Michelle's "Japan experience" also when we lived here from 1999-2003. Junko found the perfect gift, a Kamakura Bori photo frame. Kamakura Bori is famous lacquer work over beautifully carved wood.

Our second evening we went to a "Kaiten Zushi" or conveyor belt sushi. You can either sit at the bar or in a booth while conveyor belt loaded with color-coded plates with sushi, soup, desserts etc. pass by. You just help yourself or order fresh from the chefs who are replenishing the belt in the center. At the end, color-coded plates are counted and the bill tallied. It is always a great experience.
Our good friends, Sandy and Tony, invited the four of us for a fantastic Moroccan dinner at their lovely home in Kita Kamakura, a small town nudging up to Kamakura with many beautiful temples. Tony and Sandy have lived in Japan for many many years and have built a great translating business. Tony does most of the translating and Sandy, who is a little speed-devil at typing, types it all up. Sandy's e-mails always have Michelle in stitches. She has a gift to make you laugh.     

It was also great meeting Junko's growing family. Before we left Japan in 2003, we attended the storybook wedding of Junko's eldest son Kazu to adorable Tomoko. Now they have a boy Juichi (3) and little Mako (7 months). Last year Junko's youngest son Yuya got married to spunky vegan girl Mayuko. Both sons are surgeons and work long hours which makes us appreciate the time they spent visit us even more.

Monday, Junko, Hiro, and II friends Idemitso-San and Morokuma-San, who always makes sure to bring "wasabe treats" for Dave, took us to Tofuya-Ukai Saginuma (http://www.ukai.co.jp/english/saginuma/) a very unique Tofu Restaurant where every private room looks out over amazing Japanese garden. Over three hours, we savored a very special lunch with many delicious and beautiful courses. Both Idemitso-san and Morokuma-san, Junko and Michelle used to go on great monthly outings together. We have many fond memories of Japan.

While in Kamakura, we hatched a plan to visit other friends who live near Kyoto 345.5 kilometres (214.7 miles) to the east. Junko and Hiro wanted to go with us and arranged the tickets for the highspeed bullet train. They also helped us book our onward passage aboard a Kobe Japan to Tianjin China ferry.

Obama had visited Kamakura as a 6 year old child and remembered having green-tea (macha) ice cream there. In November 2010, Obama went back for a visit to try some of that ice cream again. In front of the Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Kamakura), a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Buddha which dates from 1252, Obama licked his green tea ice cream and had a photo-op with Sato-sama an honorary member of II and Director of the Temple. The Sato's own the Diabutsu property and host II meetings at their home sometimes. The ice cream shops in Kamakura now call the "Macha"  soft ice-cream "Obamacha" . Of course "Obamacha" is my favorite!! 

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Junko on

You at last came to Kamakura part!
We are excited to see all.Very well recorded and organized!! Fantastic!

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