I’m back from my holiday now which means I can focus on writing posts again, including sharing more my trip. In this post I’ll cover a day trip we took to Kamakura, a seaside city south of Tokyo that is known for a number of festivals as well as Buddhist shrines and temples. The city is surrounded on three sides by some steep hills which help to make you feel like you’re in a very different location, despite not being all that far from Tokyo. We actually traveled there a day before our trip to Hakone that I’ve already written about.
Kamakura is about 50km south of Tokyo by rail making it very similar in distance as Britomart to Pukekohe – and one of the reasons I felt it was useful to discuss here. To get there we first made our way to Shinagawa, like we did for going to Hakone, and transferred to the Yokosuka Line which runs through Kamakura. There are only 10 stops on the 47km between Shinagawa and Kamakura and while not high speed, the trains would often reach 120km/h with that section of the journey taking around 54 minutes.
By comparison the approximately 49km between Pukekohe and Britomart has 15 stops and takes around 1:18 including a 6-8 minute transfer at Papakura. I suspect we could get travel times down to that kind of level if we can sort out the electrification issue (either by battery powered EMUs or extending the wires), completing the much needed third main to allow some faster limited stop services to run. This would also need to be after the CRL when there is some additional capacity on the rail network as all of the current capacity will be needed.
Like many of the lines around Tokyo, the trains running down the Yokosuka line have some serious capacity. They have the same length as about three of our 3-car trains combined but can hold many more people as nine of the eleven carriages use metro style bench seating – like the middle of our trains – while the other two carriages are first class but are also double deckers. I don’t know what the capacity is but I assume it would easily be in the 1500-2000 per train range and that capacity is clearly needed. Even on a mid-morning on a weekday heading away from Tokyo the train was decently busy. As a comparison, one of our 6-car trains has a stated capacity of 750 people. Moving to bench style seating is something we may need to consider to improve capacity and something I’ll look at in a later post – the good news is our trains are designed for it to be done easily.
Arriving at the station in Kamakura there was a nice bit of wayfinding in the form of some walking routes options. We decided to do The Great Buddha Course although we didn’t follow it exactly as suggested. We also did a bit of The Kamakura Quick Course, although we didn’t realise it at the time.
Setting off one of the first things I noticed was the infrastructure, the hills have had plenty of tunnels punched through them for local connectivity. Like many places in Japan though, the local roads where most people live are designed to a completely different scale. Footpaths might not exist but it’s not such an issue when cars are only travelling slow anyway. If a car came the other way – and they did – they definitely couldn’t pass at speed.
As seen on the wayfinding, one of the highlights of the route we took was the Great Buddha at Kotoku-in Temple. It is made from bronze, is 13.5m tall, was built in 1252 and has survived undamaged both a Tsunami (which wiped out the buildings around it), and later an earthquake which damaged the base it sits on. For a nominal fee you could also go inside for a look which also shows how it was made 764 years ago.
Moving down further to the Hase-dera Temple we got our first good view of the beach and back over a decent part of the city.
Shortly after that we reached the end of the course. It was suggested that we catch a small, mostly single track railway back to the main station however we decided to walk instead and go via the beach. The beach was fairly deserted, being a Friday afternoon and not particularly warm. I imagine it’s quite popular in the heat of summer though. Along much of the beach there was a decently wide seaside walkway/cycleway but it is next to a coastal highway which felt like much more of a barrier than its size or traffic volumes at the time might suggest. I was also surprised to see very little in the way of making better use asset the town had.
So with seemingly not a lot to do at the beach we made our way back to town, about 1km north.
We’ve talked recently about the proposed Victoria St Linear Park that Auckland Transport seem to be neutering, even though it’s not really a park and is in fact vital to the operation of the City Rail Link. In Kamakura it is much more of a linear park and is in fact part of a shrine to the north. The park/walkway is split in two equal halves and totals around 500m long. It is straight down the middle of the road and is also raised above it. Access to it is only at either end or in the middle.
In spring with the cherry blossoms in bloom I imagine it would be very pretty but also very different to why we need more people space on Victoria St.
By now it was mid-late afternoon and we hadn’t had lunch so we were getting hungry. We made our way to an area that had a bit of activity and it turned out to be where all the activity was. Running almost 600m north from the train station and bus terminal, Komachi St was lined with food and retail options and with a lot of people, it had a great atmosphere.
After looking around for a bit it was time to head home. We made our way back down the street to the train station and not long later we were on our way back to Tokyo.
All up a good day and one that I feel can provide some lessons for us.