By Peter Oxley
Every walk through Kamakura is a new experience. No matter how many times I’ve visited the ancient capital, there is always something new to discover or a new encounter. There is always a little surprise. It is always an interesting one, if not educational. Each visit is never the same; it is always a variation of the previous one.
In the summer, at Hachiman Tsurugaoka Shrine, at the huge lotus pond, I discovered the extremely friendly turtles. They would come near you like old friends and chat with you. They open their mouths like koi expecting food. Unfortunately, I had nothing to give. However, there was one fine elderly gentleman who was giving some pellets of pet food to each of the five or so turtles as if they were his own little children. He was also giving instructions to the kids on how to feed the gentle reptiles. I knew there were turtles in the pond but I didn't know they were that friendly.
Young ladies in yukata in the summer or kimono in the winter are always a pleasant sight when you see them walking around the old city. They are an elegant reminder of a distant past. To many foreign tourists, these traditionally dressed young ladies are irresistible photo-subjects. My camera, too, is always be attracted to them. From a distance, I love to take some snaps.
In my summer visit, while I was aiming my camera at a group of three young girls in yukata, I noticed one of them had a bottle of Kamakura Beer in her hand and another girl was smoking a cigarette. They were a cheerful bunch and kept taking selfies at some spots around the lotus pond. Hachiman Tsurugaoka Shrine, I thought, was a holy ground and in the past you wouldn’t want to be seen smoking and drinking beer there. Oh well, but times have changed, I thought. All are welcome, I thought, to pass through the big red torii gates.
I visited Kamakura again towards the end of autumn. At the pond, to watch seagulls mingling together with ducks, doves, crows, and koi in the pond was quite unsettling. I thought I could only see seagulls on the seashores not in a pond reserved for tamed birds and fish. Seagulls usually dive at little fish in the sea. But the pond had only fat carps. I wondered what brought them to the smaller body of fresh water.
When I was about to film the momiji by the entrance, a security guard immediately came near me.
“The use of tripod is not allowed,” he ordered. “Handheld is okay.”
My tripod was very small – it’s designed for taking low angle shots. I didn’t ask the guard ‘Why?’ I didn’t question the wisdom of the prohibition. Instead, I shifted filming to a handheld style. It was the first time to be stopped filming because of a tripod.
In the darkening sky, above Komachidori, about a dozen tombi hawks were leisurely enjoying themselves at the end of the day. Unmindful of the pandemic still raging over the country, they continued to glide and dive; to swing and fly.
Covid-19 still haunts the country. Therefore, it's astonishing to see young and old people visiting the ancient capital. A two-hour walk around the city, even on a cloudy day, was such a delight and another important experience.