In the world of toddler travel, it’s important to remember and accept that there will be successes and there will be failures. I’ve got to admit that sometimes it’s not easy, and it’s always exhausting. We asked our friends Peter and Leslie, who live in London with their 2 year old, how they manage to get out and enjoy the city. Their advice was to “pick a destination to get you out the door, but realize that there’s about a 20% chance that you will actually make it. Even if you don’t make it, you’ll be out of the house and something interesting will happen.”
It was with that advice that we headed out on Labor Day. Our destination was the old capital city Kamakura to see the Great Buddha. Let me cut the story short here and say that we did not make it to our destination. The interesting things that happened include: it rained hard, the kids were cranky, we were cranky, the “vegetable curry” we ordered for lunch was actually “pot roast curry with a hint of vegetables”, and we ended up heading home soaked, hungry, and with one dislocated elbow without getting anywhere near the Great Buddha. Still, even through the rain and pot roast, we could see that Kamakura was a beautiful place worth a second attempt.
Kamakura is a city about 30 miles south west of Tokyo. It has a beautiful crescent beach on one side and steep hills on the other three. This made it a very strategically defensive place and for some time it was the defacto capital of Japan, the home of the Shogunate, and the center of Buddhism. There’s a lot of history and a lot to see in this small area.
We headed out for our second attempt last weekend. The weather called for sun, and while it was a three day weekend in Japan and crowds were expected, the city also had a series of mobile shrines parading through the streets. This time, we had much better luck. The traffic made it hard to get too close, so we parked two train stops away at Ofuna and trained it into Kamakura. From there, we hopped onto the old electric railway that runs between Kamakura and Enoshima to Hase. There, we saw the Great Buddha (and to the kids’ delight, got to climb inside it), many mobile shrines parading through town, had vegetable curry that *didn’t include chunks of beef*, and explored the Hase-Dera temple (complete with carved Buddhist caves!).
The day ended with us carrying two exhausted and happily sleeping toddlers back through the streets of the city as we made our way back to the car and home. We saw two of a list of about 50 things to see in the city, but toddler travel really is more about the journey than the destination. We may move slowly and miss many of the sites, but instead we have plenty of chances to stop, play with rocks, laugh with the locals, and wave at trains as they go by.